Saint Stephen's girls golf team, Bradenton Christian's Philip Knowles tee up with state crowns in view

jdill@bradenton.comOctober 29, 2013 


Bradenton Christian School golfer Philip Knowles tees off during the Class 1A-District 17 boys golf tournament Monday at the Bradenton Country Club. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald


They're at different golf courses, but the Saint Stephen's girls team and Bradenton Christian's Philip Knowles are aiming for state titles beginning Tuesday.

The Falcons are at Harbor Hills Country Club in Lady Lake, while Knowles battles the field as an individual at Deer Island Golf and Lake Club in Tavares.

Both are competing in the Class 1A finals, which features some stout competition.

The Falcons, who posted a 313 total to win their region by 39 shots, face four teams that posted lower region scores and two that tallied sub-300 totals.

That includes Lake Mary Prep, which was led by sixth-grader Anne Yu's 71 at the region tourney.

The team was consistent in that event, having three 72s and a 74 (that was not used as only the top four of five scores count) to pair with Yu's 71.

"I know when we come off the course on Wednesday, regardless of what the scores are or what place we finish, we will have been successful," Saint Stephen's first-year head coach Craig Tarbeck said. "Because these people, the old cliché, they'll leave

it all on the field. They'll do the best they can. They've prepared."

Still, the Falcons are coming in brimming with confidence after getting a full team together just before the Donald Ross Memorial Invitational, which they won.

"They're just not going to beat themselves," Tarbeck said. "They're extremely mature (with) golf psychology. ... These kids, they just go on and make the next shot as if the last one didn't happen, if it wasn't what they really wanted. They don't throw away shots, because they are worried about a previous shot. So they are not going to beat themselves."

Meanwhile, Knowles won't have a complete team with him as the Panthers couldn't advance from district play this fall.

However, the junior is looking to improve on his seventh-place showing last fall.

The top six players receive ribbons, but it's the hardware and achievement as state champ that's driving Knowles this week.

"It's a great goal to have," BCS head coach Joel Van Ryn said. "He's certainly a talented player, and after the regional, sometimes Philip can get it going with the putter. And he's a great putter, but if they are falling, then he can put a string of birdies together."

Deer Island was the venue for Lakewood Ranch's second consecutive state title in 2012, and the course is one that Knowles hadn't played until Monday's practice round.

What he said he saw was a course that plays a little short.

"That works for me, because I don't hit it long by any stretch," Knowles said. "The wind can really kick up. ... I manage my game pretty well in the wind."

Knowles begins his quest at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. The two-day tournament concludes Wednesday.

His bid for a potential state crown, like the Saint Stephen's girls team, faces some hurdles in the form of Lake Mary Prep's dynamic duo of Cristian DiMarco and Austen Truslow. The seniors fired rounds of 63 and 64, respectively, in the region tournament last week.

And then there are two players from Knowles' region who bested him there: Sarasota Christian's Tony Jiang (65) and Charles Wang (68).

Still, Knowles fired a 69 and secured an individual qualifying berth into this week's state tourney.

"It's always you against the golf course," Knowles said. "You're not playing against other people. You are seeing how good you can do against the golf course that day. And it's just a grind and it's never going to be easy winning a state championship. ... Especially, coming from Florida. It'll take a couple good days of really good golf. But it's certainly within grasp."

And the junior is looking to etch his name into the record books with a state championship performance.

The Falcons are searching for the same, and begin their quest Tuesday at Harbor Hills at 8:15 a.m. off the back nine.

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