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PRACTICE PAYS FOR WARRIORS

Matt Baker

Times staff Writer

For almost half her life, Steinbrenner junior Claire Becker had walked from her home off the sixth hole at Heritage Harbor to practice her short game.

All those extra strokes paid off Tuesday. Becker scrambled to save par on the first playoff hole and calmly drained a 6-footer on the third to edge teammate Alyssa Serino for the Class 3A, District 11 championship.

Both Warriors shot 77 in the first round to lead Steinbrenner to the team title with a four-player score of 323 - 89 strokes ahead of second-place Plant.

On the first playoff hole Becker's second shot fell short, forcing her to get up and down and drain a "miraculous" 20-foot putt to force another hole.

"I don't know (how I did it), to be honest," Becker said.

Serino magically salvaged par on the next hole despite plopping her first shot into a gator pond. Both hit their tee shots on the next par 3 close to the pin, and Becker birdied to claim first place.

Alexandra Ackles and Addison Hill finished at 99 to put Plant ahead of Sickles. Both teams advance to next week's region tournament. Alonso's Elysse Pillers, Grace Givens and Hailey Shaffer move on as individuals.

Plant's boys swept the top three spots to cruise to a title with a team score of 290 - 12 strokes ahead of runnerup Steinbrenner.

"When you have four of the top six, it's tough for them to overcome that," said senior Todd Sessums, who shot 76.

Plant junior Patrick Mills had the day's low round (70), one stroke ahead of Panther freshman Christopher Kern and three ahead of teammate Robert Eisch.

Zach Ishee (75) and freshman Baylor Griffin (76) were the top performers for the Warriors. Sickles sophomore Darin de Lelys and junior Joshua Bettencourt fired 77s to lead the Gryphons to regionals.

Individuals moving on are Gaither seniors Patrick Highland (79) and Nicholas Shea (81) and Alonso sophomore Nate Kosarich (81).

* * *

3A-13: Newsome not letting up

RIVERVIEW - Donte Davis made a bid to disrupt Newsome's utter dominance, but the Riverview junior settled for second-place honors as his Sharks, Newsome and Durant advanced from the District 3A, Class 13 tournament at Summerfield.

Newsome placed all five golfers in the top nine to easily win the team title at 8-over 292. Wolves junior Tyler Bakich held off Davis and teammate John Michael Coultas for medalist honors, sinking midrange putts on the final two holes to finish 2-under 69.

Coultas was last year's district champ by a shot over Bakich and Tuesday tied for second with Davis at even par.

"I made zero putts today until those last two," Bakich said.

He was tied with Coultas at 1 under before getting in trouble on his approach to 17 then drilled a 15-footer to save par. Coultas was in the next group and bogeyed.

Then Davis had his shot. On the 530-yard 18th he had a makeable chip for eagle. However, Davis settled for par and Bakich drained his birdie for the two-shot margin.

Riverview finished 17 shots behind Newsome with Durant another 33 back. The top three teams and top three individuals not on those teams - Plant City's William George, Brandon's Quinn Duffy and Bloomingdale's H.J. Fitchett - advance.

Darek Sharp, Times correspondent

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