WESLEY CHAPEL — A near-perfect record (11-1) makes the Wesley Chapel boys golf team a viable playoff contender entering Class 2A, District 15 play Tuesday.
Wesley Chapel's lone loss came against county powerhouse Mitchell, which made the state tournament a year ago. Last season, Wesley Chapel went 8-4, finishing as the conference runnerup to Mitchell and district runnerup to Jesuit.
"It's going to be close," first-year coach John Sousa said of this year's district tourney set for the Links of Lake Bernadette.
Sousa, who jokingly downplays his role by saying, "I just drive the bus," has some pretty experienced help in Randy Rover, an assistant golf professional at Avila, and Anthony Politano.
Sousa added that Lexington Oaks helps his team as well. The Wildcats practice at that course three times per week in addition to their matches. In return, Sousa ensures that the golfers respect the course by filling their divots.
"There's a lot more to playing golf than to hack somebody's course up," Sousa said. "Our success is due to the fact that we have a golf course that it is high-school friendly."
Don Mounts, assistant general manager at Lexington Oaks, noted the importance of the relationship: "We know the future of golf is with the children."
Having lost three key seniors to graduation, Wesley Chapel relies on two sophomores and three juniors, who rank among the team's top scorers. Sophomore Tyler Rover, Randy's son, carries the best average at 37.6. Not far behind is junior Zac Lemmens at 38.7, while junior Alex Nay (41.7), sophomore Ben Wolfman (42.9) and junior Zach Marquardt (44.7) round out the top five.
In last week's tri-match with River Ridge and Ridgewood, Wesley Chapel turned in a season-best team card of 150. Sousa feels his players are getting even better as the postseason approaches, especially Rover, who shot a season-low 34 in a tri-match two weeks ago with Mitchell and Anclote.
"I'm counting on him," Sousa said.
While the 150 score is the benchmark for this season, Sousa feels his team has a shot at the school record of 142, set in 2006.
"They know that they can face any challenge," he said. "They seem to rise to their competition. They're going into conference and district (tourneys) with confidence."