State golf | Wind takes toll; Saint Stephen's girls, BCS' Knowles in contention

jdill@bradenton.comOctober 31, 2012 

HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS -- Long after their rounds ended, Connor Lynch and Philip Knowles were headed in different directions.

The two Bradenton golfers from rival high schools went to practice what needed improvement following Tuesday's opening round of the boys Class 1A state golf tournament at Mission Inn in Howey-in-the-Hills.

Lynch, a Saint Stephen's senior, went to the driving range to work on a swing that went missing early in his round on the El Campeon course.

"It was mostly off the tee on the front nine that really killed me," said Lynch, who finished with 84. "I can take positives from my putting, but I just want to go work on my swing and try figuring something out for (Wednesday)."

Knowles, a Bradenton Christian sophomore, was working on his putting, which didn't deliver for him Tuesday during a round of 77 that left him in a tie for ninth place.

"I guess I didn't read many of them right, and my speed was off all day," Knowles said. "And when you have that combination, it doesn't usually turn out very well."

Lynch is at the state tournament with his Saint Stephen's teammates. The Falcons completed the first round with a 334 total to leave itself in 11th place out of the 16 teams competing.

The Falcons are 30 shots behind Plantation American Heritage.

"That is pretty good," Lynch said of American Heritage's 304. "That's almost all 76s in this weather."

Seiya Liu (80), Brendan Worthy (91) and Jack Cen's team-leading 79 rounded out the Falcons scoring.

Meanwhile, Knowles, who is making his state tournament debut, was 1-over par making the turn after starting on the back nine.

Then disaster struck in the form of a double bogey on the third hole (his 12th). Knowles is five shots off the pace set by Boca Raton St. Andrew's senior Johnny Newnham.

Also competing at Mission Inn are the Saint Stephen's girls, who have the best chance at capturing a state championship. The Falcons are in fourth place following the first round on the

Las Colinas course.

Saint Stephen's received 76s from senior Yvonne Zheng and freshman Michelle Yan. Yan's sister, Vanessa, an eighth-grader, joined junior Phoebe Zhao with an 80.

"I think we'll be more prepared (Wednesday)," Michelle Yan said.

Both courses were difficult enough with course ratings, which measures how a scratch golfer would perform, above par.

But the real problem was the wind, which featured gusts of about 30 miles per hour.

"It was pretty tough," Vanessa Yan said. "The course, it was much tougher than the ones in Bradenton. It's longer and there's a lot of water and the fairways are narrow … so much wind. Front nine, we were all freezing."

Knowles, though, said he likes when the conditions get bad.

"I like playing in conditions that other people don't," he said. "I like playing in the wind. I don't mind playing when it's raining. ... It's just so much mental. It's all, so much in your head. A lot of the kids, especially in high school golf, are done before they even start, because it's windy and it was freezing (Tuesday) morning. ... I've been able to flight my ball really well ... and my iron shots weren't really that bad."

For him, it was his putter that needed some work and he spent a majority of the time following the round trying to lock in the flatstick. Lynch headed to the range to work the kinks out in his swing.

For both, there's just one round left to put it all together.

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