The recent success of the golf program at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics has been a game of Chance.
Chance Muscianese, 13, has led the Gators to a 5-0 start this season.
After defeating every area middle school other than Explorer K-8 in September, Challenger K-8 now aims to defend its back-to-back Hernando County middle school championships.
As a member of the Challenger program all three years he has been there, Muscianese knows nothing but success at the middle school level. Richard Gomez is the coach of the team and believes that Muscianese, one of only two eighth-graders on the roster, has the leadership capabilities to keep the title run going.
"He's our captain," Gomez said. "Chance has matured over the past year in his game and his personality."
Muscianese first teed it up at age 3, with the encouragement of his father, Anthony Muscianese. He enjoyed it so much that by the time young Chance was 6, his dad signed him up for lessons at Oak Hills Golf Club in Spring Hill.
He continues to play golf most of the year and competes in North Suncoast Junior Golf Association events. Muscianese won the boys intermediate division title at the NSJGA Tournament of Champions at World Woods, north of Brooksville, in August, shooting 96 over 18 holes.
"He is a special kid," junior golf association coordinator Wendy Deans said. "He loves the sport, and he really cares a lot for his family."
In the Hernando County Middle School Athletic Conference Championship at the Heather Golf and Country Club last season, Muscianese shot a nine-hole score of 41, third best on the Challenger team. Only three boys shot better that day, all of whom have since gone on to high school. With that performance on a big stage, Gomez knew that he had a player ready to take over the top spot for this campaign.
Muscianese relates well with his teammates as the Gator captain, but he holds a special bond with teammate Jacob Arnett (43.6-stroke average), Gomez said. The coach said the players' relationship brings the entire team closer together.
"Jacob and Chance are friends and confidants that push each other to be better players," Gomez said. "Not only is golfing athletic, but to a certain extent it is also social. The camaraderie of golf is what they'll remember over the scores."
The next four years likely hold more success on the links for Muscianese. He intends to attend Springstead High School and compete in the Eagles' golf program. He wants to play well enough to earn a scholarship to the same college Tiger Woods attended, Stanford University in California.
Someday, he might even make a run as a pro golfer. He took a trip with his father to the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am to watch the senior pros in April at the TPC Tampa Bay course in Lutz. He took away some confidence from watching the tournament.
"They hit bad shots like everyone else," Muscianese said. "It makes you realize that everyone has good holes and bad holes. We aren't much different."
But before his focus shifts to goals like high school, college and the pros, Muscianese has targeted another county title for Challenger.
"I work hard in every practice and every event for one reason," he said. "It's a competitive thing. I want to be No. 1."
The county middle school championship will be Oct. 21 at Silverthorn Country Club, and Muscianese and the Gators have one goal: title No. 3.
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School: Eighth-grader at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics
Scoring average: 41.2 (nine holes)
Resides: Spring Hill
Accomplishments: Challenger K-8 2009 team captain; Boys Intermediate Champ, 2009 North Suncoast Junior Golf Association Tournament of Champions