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Saddlebrook finds tough competition in Nease

This year's Class A state title will not be handed to Saddlebrook upon its arrival next week in Fort Pierce.

St. Augustine Nease plans on having a say, and the Panthers started talking with their clubs Monday.

At the Class A, Region 3 tournament at El Diablo, the defending state champion Spartans and 2000-01 state champion Nease figured to be the teams advancing to the state meet. The only question was which would win.

It was Nease, firing 303 to Saddlebrook's 308. It was a rare off day for the Spartans, who had three scores in the 80s after last week's district tournament where no one shot higher than 75.

Only Connor Doherty (73) and Sung Won Jeon (74) were in shouting distance of the course's par 72 Monday. Young Min Cha (80), Gin Woong Kim (81) and Kyung Chong (82) struggled.

"They moved on, but we're a little disappointed. They're definitely capable of playing better than that," coach Mark Hirshey said. "Nease is definitely a very good team, right in there with our caliber. It gives us an idea of what we have to do at state."

At the Fairwinds Golf Course Nov. 11-12, Saddlebrook will have to match up better with Nease's Preston Brown (73), Brad Nelson (74) and Jay Mariano (75), the three low Panthers at El Diablo, which played at 6,688 yards and showed its teeth.

An even-par round from Louis Amira of The Villages claimed medalist honors. Citrus, which plays out of El Diablo, tied for third with 328 as only Robert Taylor (74) shot lower than 81. Hernando, which beat Citrus last month at El Diablo in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference championship, finished sixth at 336.

"It was a struggle out there," said Leopards senior Keegan Ledford, who shot 76.

Hernando's Zachary Koch withdrew midway through his round with a strained back. Ryan Armstrong shot 81 with even-par 36 on the back nine. Zephyrhills finished seventh out of eight teams with 345. Jonathon Mine shot 85 to lead the Bulldogs.

_ JOHN SCHWARB

2A-4: Pasco teams falter

TAMPA _ Wesley Chapel and Ridgewood entered the Class 2A, Region 4 tournament with high hopes, but like every other team in the field, the teams from Pasco ran into some tough conditions.

Winds blew steadily and often harshly at Cheval Golf Club, pushing Ridgewood's total to 354 and Wesley Chapel to 385, placing them sixth and eighth, respectively. Their best individual finishes came from Ridgewood's Justin Schlau (80) and Wesley Chapel's Cameron Knight (85). The only consolation may be that only four players broke 80 on the tight, par-71 layout.

Seminole's Cliff Williams won with 75, followed by teammate Jon Dubbeld at 77 as the Warhawks took the team title with 323.

"Our team talked about keeping it in play before the round," said Williams, who made two birdies and six bogeys. "So that's what I tried to do. I only hit three drivers all day."

Chamberlain was second at 338 to earn the other qualifying spot for next week's state tournament, making the Chiefs and coach Hank Bontrager one of the day's most emotionally-spent groups.

"Before the tournament we were so excited about our chances," said Bontrager, making his first trip to state in his six years as coach. "But because we were one of the first teams in we looked at our score and were a little disconcerted. But then as the scores kept coming in so high we felt better and better. By the time it was over, of course, we were elated."

Plant was third at 342 and Wharton fifth at 344.

_ SCOTT PURKS

2A-2: Central finishes 4th

OCALA _ The rains came through, then the winds kicked up at Lake Diamond Golf Club.

Unfortunately for Central, with the wind went a chance to advance to the Class 2A state tournament.

At the Region 2 tournament, the Bears finished fourth, shooting 325, nine behind second-place Lake Mary (316). Gainesville Buchholz won with 311 and with Lake Mary claimed the berths available for state.

"It was ugly," Central coach Gary Morton said. "Our team didn't play well, nobody played well."

Ryan Brewer paced Central with 77 and was the only Bears player to shoot in the 30s on the back nine. Grey Gonzalez and Austin Grey began their rounds with front-nine 38s but ended up shooting 82 and 87. Peter Wieger shot 82 and Aaron Wimer 84.

Central advanced to the region tournament, finishing second in its district behind Buchholz and Belleview. This time the Bears beat Belleview, which shot 348.

_ JOHN SCHWARB

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