The Lakewood Ranch boys golf team is two rounds away from completing a magical, undefeated season that culminates with a state title.
But the Mustangs aren’t getting ahead of themselves.
There’s still a talented group of contenders at the Class 2A state tournament held at Mission Inn Resort and Club’s El Campeon course in Howey-in-the-Hills.
And they only have to look in their backyard for one of those challengers.
Ranch has defeated Sarasota Riverview five times during an 88-0 season, but the Rams possess Michael Visacki and a balanced lineup that could get hot in the 36-hole championship.
Visacki fired a ridiculous 66 at Bent Tree Country Club’s tricky layout to lift Riverview into the state tournament as the Region 5 runner-up.
That team total was a 297, which was 11 shots behind Ranch’s regional title total.
Last year’s defending 2A state champs, Spruce Creek, is also in the field.
Vero Beach won Spruce Creek’s region with a 292 total and could contend, too.
Ranch head coach Dave Frantz said Parkland Douglas is another top team.
With Vero Beach and Parkland Douglas, the Mustangs will test their skill against teams they have yet to see this fall.
Nonetheless, Ranch is brimming with confidence, even as the weather put a damper on Monday’s activities.
The Mustangs were supposed to play El Campeon for an official practice round, but inclement weather washed that plan out. Still, Ranch headed up Saturday for a practice round and that could prove beneficial when play begins today.
“It’s kind of minimal,” said Frantz about a perceived advantage as one of the few teams that came up Saturday for a practice round. “You still need to see the golf course, but you don’t necessarily playing it. I think us playing it, we have a healthy respect for it.”
Frantz said the course, which the FHSAA lists at an approximate 6,783 yards, has some holes that you can attack and other holes that require a conservative approach.
But Frantz also said the tee shot is a key factor on the El Campeon course.
“We’ve been talking (Monday),” he said, “about if we hit our tee shots the way we normally do, then we should be able to play it well. If you don’t get into the right position off the tee, then you could be looking at a long day.”
Two sophomores, Ramsey Touchberry and Kyle Benson, join senior stalwarts Connor Baldwin, Kyle Benson and Hunter Sagar for a deep Mustangs lineup.
Beginning at 8:15 a.m., with 9-minute increments, here’s the order of tee times: Sagar, Benson,Walker, Baldwin and Touchberry.
The sizzling quintet are paired with the Rams and Vero Beach, so the familiarity of teeing it up with Riverview could ease the pressure a bit.
But the early morning tee times is a factor that Frantz likes.
“It cuts both ways, but I’m of the opinion that if you can get out early, play on fresh greens that are unspiked and nice and pure, and put up a score, it’s nice to get in and get out of there,” Frantz said.
Meanwhile, Manatee freshman Gianna Tomeo finds herself at the same location, albeit a different course at Mission Inn.
Tomeo posted a scorching 74 to advance from last week’s Region 5 tournament at Venice’s Capri Isles Golf Club. Her round was 13 shots better than the district performance at Bradenton Country Club. Tomeo tees off today at 9:45 a.m. in the girls 2A state tournament at Mission Inn’s Las Colinas course.