HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS -- Golf can be a cruel game, sometimes. A great shot down the middle of the fairway can produce a horrific lie, and the chance at scoring on a hole.
That happened to Manatee's Gianna Tomeo a few times in the girls portion of the Class 3A state tournament held at Mission Inn's Las Colinas course Tuesday.
"I was hitting it fine, I just kept getting weird lies," Tomeo said. "I kept getting a bunch of sloped downhill shots, especially a lot of the par-4s."
Tomeo's short game, though, was strong enough to keep her under 80 for the first round. So, the Hurricanes star golfer heads into Wednesday's final round tied for 13th place following the 7-over par 79 that included a disastrous double bogey on the 18th hole.
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She trails Clearwater Countryside's Madison Glennie, who fired an even-par 72.
"She needs to go out and play mistake-free golf," Manatee girls golf head coach Alan Johnson said. "She's always capable of making two or three birdies a round; she just can't make any bogeys which is a tall order to ask. She's got to go 70. She has to go low. And out here, it's tough."
To combat the tough, downhill lies that she faced in Tuesday's first round, Tomeo said she'll try using more 3-woods off the par-4 holes to lay up a bit.
Lakewood Ranch's boys team entered the 3A tourney with a number in mind. That number, 600, is what the Mustangs figured it'd take to win the program's third straight state crown. So while the 298 the squad posted Tuesday is higher than normal, the Mustangs hit their target goal of cracking 300 for the day.
"American Heritage and Ponte Vedra, which are our best competition in the state even though they are in different classes, last week here they shot 601 and 603, I believe," senior Ramsey Touchberry said. "So our goal was to beat our score. Because we look at them as some of the best in state as well."
The Mustangs boast three players in their starting five that use the conventional putting grip.
But Touchberry and Luke Miller, two of Ranch's top three golfers, go a different route.
Miller, a junior, uses an anchored long putter with a left-hand low grip.
Meanwhile, Touchberry, who is head to the University of Florida following this year, goes with a modified claw grip where he uses just one finger rather than several fingers.
"We were at Missing Link one day, and Ian (Segneri) had us doing a putting contest," said Touchberry about the grip he adopted after last year's high school season. "The switch up was each putt he gave us, he made us use a different grip. So it just happened that the one grip he had us do was grip it like the claw grip but hold it like you're holding a pencil with one finger down instead of two or three. So I liked it. And I kept with it."
While Touchberry and Danny Walker (University of Virginia commit) are finishing their final seasons before college golf beckons in 2014, this fall also serves as head coach Dave Frantz's last in charge of the Mustangs.
Frantz is retiring, and the Ranch players have the chance to send him out on top with a third straight state crown when play resumes Wednesday.