Coming up short in back-to-back, sudden-death playoffs is nothing for Ridgewood golfer Phillip Marina to hang his head about.
Marina views the Sunshine Athletic Conference and Class 2A, District 8 tournaments as strong outings in which he helped the Rams advance to Monday's 2A, Region 4 tourney at Cheval in Lutz.
Marina's scores of 72 and 73 for the two 18-hole tourneys led Ridgewood to a conference title and a district runner-up.
"A lot of people joke with me about choking," Marina said of his playoff rounds. "I didn't choke. I lost my focus.
"I'm really happy about it," he added of helping his team score low enough to keep playing.
That optimistic outlook stems from Marina's mild-mannered temperament and is the kind of response coach Gary Anders expects from a player who averaged 40.8 per nine holes during the season, but shot 36s on the front nines in the two 18-hole tournaments.
"He's got an even temperament," Anders said. "That's a common trait in kids who play well. You have to keep your wits about you."
Marina, a junior who took up golf as an eighth-grader at Bayonet Point Middle School, learned the game from longtime family friend Ray Cisbani. He also learned to play roller hockey under Cisbani, who once owned the defunct All Sports Arena in Hudson and is a former assistant golf pro at Beacon Woods.
The Cisbanis and Marinas have long been friends and last summer the families vacationed in Myrtle Beach together. Of course, they played plenty of golf.
So when Marina fell from Ridgewood's No. 2 to No. 3 halfway through the season, the teen went to Cisbani, Mitchell's girls coach, for a few pointers.
"He fixed my swing," Marina said. "My grip was too weak and my swing wasn't loose and compact."
"He's not that big (Marina is 5-foot-7, 115 pounds), so he's always concerned about his length," Cisbani said. "The message I always try to get across to him is to keep the ball in play.
"He's not extremely long, but he's competitive. He's an outstanding short game player."
Outside of Ridgewood's No. 1 player, Justin Schau, no one drives the ball straighter or more consistently than Marina, Anders said.
In the two tournaments, Anders said, Marina has "put a little more distance on all of his shots. That puts him in good position."
Stepping up his game in the postseason is something Marina takes pride in. Another is playing well in adverse conditions. While some complained about the rain in Tuesday's district tourney, Marina relished the opportunity to shine on a dreary day.
"I like playing in those conditions," Marina said. "Every time I play in rain I play good.."
Marina also enjoys the 18-hole tournament format.
"I like playing 18 holes, because you don't know what's going to happen," he said. "You can make a triple-bogey on the first hole and come back and make par."
As for Cheval, which is longer than The Links in Hudson, Ridgewood's home course and site of the SAC tourney, Marina said, "Even though it's long, if I'm chipping and putting I should be okay."
While he won't pray for rain or plan on an early slip-up, Marina is not worried about conditions or his early performance in Monday's regional. If Marina falters early, he will simply hunker down and work his way through the course.
"I like the pressure and all." Marina said.
WHEN: Monday, tee times start at 8 a.m.
WHERE: Cheval Golf and Country Club, Tampa.
WHO: Ridgewood, which finished second in its district; Wesley Chapel, which placed fourth in its own; plus Mitchell sophomore Josh Dotoli, the final individual qualifier in his district.
THE SKINNY: Seven of the eight teams posted district scores within 18 strokes of the lowest (East Lake), and Ridgewood had the second-lowest, so there's pressure on the Rams to match or beat their district score. Wesley Chapel had the highest district score, but sophomore Cameron Knight had the lowest individual round and is a favorite to advance to state. Making that more impressive: Of the 16 district champions in Class 2A, only three (including Knight) were sophomores.
WHEN: Monday, tee times start at 8 a.m.
WHERE: El Diablo Country Club, Citrus Springs.
WHO: Saddlebrook, which won its district; and Zephyrhills, which finished fourth in its own.
THE SKINNY: Saddlebrook's district score of 288 was second-lowest in the class, but it should have a good fight with Ponte Vedra Beach Nease, which shot 291. A bad round could send the Spartans home, with Citrus and Orange Park Fleming Island within 17 strokes. Individually, Saddlebrook's Connor Doherty and Sung Won Jeon will battle Nease's Mike McMillan and Fleming Island's Chase Mills for medalist honors.
_ GREG AUMAN