HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS -- It was a higher than average day for Lakewood Ranch's boys golf team.
But with swirling winds, the number proved to be better than every other team competing in the Class 3A state tournament held at Mission Inn Golf & Resort's El Campeon course in Howey-in-the-Hills on Tuesday.
The Mustangs (137-5) fired a 10-over par 298 total and lead their nearest competitor, Vero Beach, by seven shots heading into Wednesday's final round.
"I think that's what we wanted to do," Ranch head coach Dave Frantz said. "Is to give ourselves a lead to where we've got some wiggle room."
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Ranch's best performance came from senior Ramsey Touchberry, who torched the difficult conditions with a 4-under par 68 and leads the individual standings by one shot over Lithia Newsome's Tyler Bakich.
"This round was different," Touchberry said. "There was no place that I shot forward with my score. It was more of a gradual incline to get under par. I ended up having five birdies and an eagle. It was kind of just gradual, and I just had a lot of pars. There's a lot of scrambling out here, even if you hit it on the green. I had 30 putts, which isn't bad considering it's Mission Inn. Normally
you would say that's two or three too many. But (Tuesday), I'm happy."
Danny Walker (76), Kelly Sun (76) and Luke Miller (78) rounded out Ranch's team score. Charlie Sun (82) also played, but only the top four of five scores count toward the team total.
Touchberry wasn't always in the lead in Tuesday's opening round.
He opened with a bogey on the 515-yard par-5 first hole.
After nine holes, he trailed Bakich by four after the Newsome junior turned in 31.
But Touchberry kept grinding, and eventually posted the best score of the day.
"I surprised myself after my first hole," Touchberry said. "To be at 5-under by after 13 or 14, I surprised myself."
Walker and Miller began strong, but faded to card scores higher than their season averages.
Still, though, Ranch is in prime shape to win the program's third consecutive state championship.
The Mustangs hold a seven-shot lead over Vero Beach, while their top challengers entering the tourney, Lithia Newsome, are 11 shots back of Ranch and in a tie for third place.
Ranch tees it up in the last set of tee times Wednesday alongside Vero Beach and Newsome, meaning the Mustangs can gauge how they are faring with the direct competition by their side.
"I like it, because you know what they are doing," Touchberry said. "And also we know them so much by now."
And if Touchberry can keep his pace, then he'll add an individual state title to the program's collection not seen since Walker accomplished the feat in 2010.