When Brad Schneider plays, he is accompanied not so much by a gallery as an entourage. Swing coaches, a personal trainer and a sports psychologist all have assisted the Bloomingdale sophomore the past two years.
As Schneider's game has improved, his scores have dropped dramatically. After a regular season with a nine-hole average of 35.6, Schneider was outstanding in the postseason, placing second in district and regional events and in the top 20 at state.
"I wasn't expecting to average under par or go as far as I did in the state tournament," he said. "But I think I played well and it does put a little pressure on me to make state again but it also gives me more fire to get there again."
And he can continue to expect a little help. Schneider said the biggest benefits from his professional coaching are improved technique and a better handle on the mental aspects of the game.
"He's mentally solid," Bloomingdale coach Brack Harris said. "When you watch him play, no one thing really stands out. He hits a good ball off the tee, has good approach shots and can putt. It's hard to get much better than that."
In the past, Schneider was prone to one or two of what his coach calls "blow-up rounds" where his usually consistent score ballooned to more than 40. There were no such rounds this season.
"That's where my mental game has been better. Just staying focused," said Schneider, 15, who shot 71-74_145 to place 16th in the Class 2A tournament. "That's how I think the teaching has really helped me."
With swing coaches dissecting every move, psychologists pinpointing concentration lapses, and strength and conditioning gurus teaching stretching and flexibility, one might think his talent has reached its ceiling.
But Schneider, who can drive the ball 270 yards with a 5-foot-6, 125-pound frame, still aims for improvement with two years of high school golf ahead. His top goal is a better finish at state.
"I want to get back to state," he said. "I want to shoot under par for an entire season and get back to state and win there."
Then, he said, he can look at some higher goals. "It was nice for my game to get some recognition. But I still want to play better, play golf in college and maybe, hopefully, try the pro tour."
BRAD SCHNEIDER, SO., BLOOMINGDALE: Golfer of the year.
MATT HEBERT, JR., TAMPA PREP: Finished second in region, Top 20 at state.
BOBBY DYER, SR., NEWSOME: Helped lead new program to state tournament.
TONY DIAZ, SR., CHAMBERLAIN: Finished strong in districts and regional.
JACK WATTERS, SR., TAMPA PREP: Tops in Class A, Region 5.
PAUL CROCHET, SO., JESUIT: Won Class A, District 9 in dramatic playoff.
_ ROD GIPSON, Times correspondent