An air of familiarity surrounds the first five groups teeing off at the Class 2A boys state tournament. East Lake and Dunedin, which competed against each other five times before states, are playing partners (along with golfers from Lake Brantley) as they challenge for a state title at Ridgewood Lakes Golf and Country Club.
The first rounds begin today. The second and final round starts Wednesday. Admission is free.
Class 2A boys
Local teams: Dunedin, East Lake
Local individual: Palm Harbor University junior Matt Cote
Where: Ridgewood Lakes Golf and CC, Davenport
Dunedin/East Lake tee times (today/Wed.): Mark Bernard (Dun)/Dustin Dingus (EL): 8 a.m./9:39 a.m.; Justin Foster (Dun)/Terry O'Reilly (EL): 8:09/9:48; Andrew Norris (Dun)/Jake Johnson (EL): 8:18/9:57; Travis Huston (Dun)/Logan Hand (EL): 8:27/10:06; Wesley Jensen (Dun)/Linzy Clark (EL): 8:36/10:15
Cote tee time: 8:18 a.m./9:48 a.m.
Notes: East Lake is making its second straight appearance in the state finals, but only one of its golfers (O'Reilly) saw the course last season. The Eagles, a collection of four juniors and one freshman, beat Dunedin by 12 strokes to win the regional title in a mild upset. That loss was the first time Dunedin failed to have a player break 80. The Falcons would do well to channel their Zen-like frame of mind from the Vinoy Invitational a month ago. In that dominating performance, each Dunedin golfer shot 76 or better, with Huston's 68 leading the way. A similar scenario could put the Falcons in serious contention. Cote has saved his best for the playoffs, coming in 2-over at regionals to earn his first state berth.
Class A boys
Local teams: Calvary Christian, St. Petersburg Catholic
Local individual: Shorecrest eighth-grader Jack Maguire
Where: The Golf Club at Bridgewater, North Lakeland
Calvary Christian tee times (today/Wed.): Colby Bullock: 8:54 a.m./8 a.m.; Aaron Watson: 9:03/8:09; Matt Brookins: 9:12/8:18; Lee McCoy: 9:21/8:27; Taylor Hancock: 9:30/8:36
St. Petersburg Catholic tee times: Joe McCarthy: 8 a.m./9:39 a.m.; Jimmy Weck: 8:09/9:48; Derek Hernandez: 8:18/9:57; Matt Baylor: 8:27/10:06; Devin Hernandez: 8:36/10:15
Maguire tee time: 8:27 a.m./9:57 a.m.
Notes: Three players return to state for SPC - Weck and the Hernandez brothers - from a squad that finished in a tie for sixth last year. Derek Hernandezis the defending district champion having won by a stroke two weeks ago. District and regional winner Calvary has the ability to contend for a state title, though it will be hard for the Warriors to overcome defending champion Circle Christian, which shot 277 to win regionals. The Warriors won their region with a score of 303. Maguire led all region golfers at 2-under 70. He finished 25-over par in his first state appearance two seasons ago.
Class A girls
Local team: Northside Christian
Local individual: Indian Rocks Christian junior Ryan Ashburn
Where: The Club at Eaglebrooke, Lakeland
Northside Christian tee times (today/Wed.): Olivia Chilcutt: 9:39 a.m./8:45 a.m.; Danielle Grace: 9:48/8:54; Anna Newell: 9:57/9:03; Michelle Butler: 10:06/9:12; A.J. Newell: 10:15/9:21
Ashburn tee time: 8:27 a.m./9:57 a.m.
Notes: The 9-year-old Northside program is searching for its second state title to match 2004's. The Mustangs, having qualified seven years in a row, are tournament veterans. Four of five starters from last year's bronze-medal team return. The good news for Northside: its 303 team score at regionals was third-lowest among state finalists. Not-so-good news: the teams with better marks, American Heritage and St. Andrew's, finished ahead of Northside at state last year. Ashburn qualified for state in 2003, '05 and '06 as a Northside golfer. This season for Indian Rocks, Ashburn won districts with 74 and finished four off the pace at regionals with 73.