With two holes remaining, Saint Stephen’s comeback was nearly complete.
A deficit that once was more than 15 strokes Saturday had dwindled all the way to five as Alan Klenor stepped to the tee on the 17th hole. Eventual state champion Windermere Prep was still on the course in Howey-in-the-Hills, but in the moment the improbable became a possibility for the Falcons.
Instead, the Falcons missed the medals entirely. A quintuple bogey by Klenor on No. 17 turned a strong final round for both he and Saint Stephen’s into a disappointment. Klenor tumbled out of the top five and settled for a tie for 11th. The Falcons slipped from second place to third with Lake Mary Prep sneaking in to take the runner-up medal.
“Probably one of the hardest holes on the golf course,” Saint Stephen’s boys head coach Matt Primrose said of the 17th.
Klenor wound up in the water twice on No. 17, dashing the Falcons’ outside chance at winning the Class 1A championship at Mission Inn and Resort. Klenor finished the two-day tournament at 9-over par, one shot out of a top-six finish (and a medal) and 10 behind state champion Eugene Hong from Winter Park Circle Christian.
Klenor ended up two strokes ahead of his nearest teammate. Massimo Mbetse bounced back from a 10-over 82 on Friday to shoot a 73 and keep Saint Stephen’s near the top of the leaderboard as a team. David Hu (15 over), Ryan Kinkhead (16 over) and David Gao (18 over) helped the Falcons improve from fourth after the opening day into third.
“Overall, in general, we played better,” Primrose said. “It was tough both days — windy, just an extremely difficult golf course.”
The Falcons, who finished at 48-over, entered the final day trailing Windermere by nine. Saint Stephen’s stepped on to the course nearly an hour before the Lakers and wanted to start strongly to put pressure on Windermere, which finished the final day at 40-over. The Falcons, though, combined for only one birdie through seven holes. Starting at No. 8, their charge began.
“My guys went on a tear,” Primrose said.
Saint Stephen’s combined for seven birdies between Nos. 8 and 11, coming out of the stretch even despite a double- and triple-bogey. Klenor posted a pair of birdies during the run and was the only Falcon to get through the turn without a bogey. The sophomore tied for second in the tournament with 23 pars and didn’t have a hole worse than bogey until the penultimate hole. Before No. 17, Klenor only had two bogeys Saturday.
The Saint Stephen’s girls entered their final day at Mission Inn Resort without a serious chance at threatening for a medal. The Falcon tied for 12th at 142-over. The Falcons’ top scorer, Vanessa Yan tied for 27th at 11-over. State-champion Mimi Chen, from the champion Lake Mary Prep squad, finished at 8-under.