LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Dave Frantz didn't want to turn the keys over to just anyone.
The longtime Lakewood Ranch boys golf coach was ready to retire following last year's stirring state championship run that capped a three-peat for himself and departing seniors Ramsey Touchberry and Danny Walker.
Those two players are now at the University of Florida and University of Virginia, respectively.
But for Frantz, who shaped the program into the state power it has become, letting go meant making sure there was someone taking over who could continue the tradition that had been established.
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"I'm not going to turn over the program I've built for 15 years to somebody that's not going to be ... a good coach," Frantz said. "So you're going to have to have a knowledge set; you're going to have to have a skill set that mixes with that."
Coinciding with Frantz's return to the fold was the emergence of two past players returning to the ranks as well. Seniors Spencer Schultz and Barry McDonnell didn't play last season, with Schultz taking time away for a year to focus on more individual golf tournaments.
The two are back to stake a regular claim in the Mustangs' deep lineup.
Consequently, Ranch is loaded again and geared toward making a run at a fourth straight state championship. After sweeping a quad match against Braden River, Bradenton Christian and Manatee on Wednesday, the Mustangs are 10-2.
No public school had every claimed three boys golf state team titles in a row until the mighty Mustangs accomplished the feat in 2013. In fact, Lakewood Ranch is
the only active school to perform the feat with the defunct Bradenton Prep being the lone private school to win three straight (1998, 1999 fall and 1999 spring).
In addition to running the gamut in the way Frantz wanted, he also was trying to retire to spend more time with his family.
Meanwhile, Schultz chose to return to the Mustangs for other reasons. He wanted to have some fun for his senior year, and because he missed the team environment.
"It's been a lot of fun so far coming back," Schultz said. "I've got to meet a lot of new people that joined the team last year and I think our team is going to do really well this year."
Mix in Kelly and Charlie Sun, and the squad has a strong quartet of previous playing experience. Schultz and the Sun brothers have been a part of the state championship teams as a player. McDonnell didn't crack the starting five to play in the state tourney during his sophomore year, but he was a member of the team.
Now the Mustangs and Frantz are searching for a consistent No. 5 player, and the depth will make it a tough choice by the time postseason golf rolls around in October.
"We've got four solid, proven players," Frantz said. "So what we have to do is we have to develop the rest of the team to find that solid fifth and sixth man now, and that solid fifth man for the middle of October. ... They all can play; the question is whose it going to be?"
In addition to the Mustangs, there are some other programs seeking to carve out their own successful 2014 campaign.
Bradenton Christian, led by U.S. Amateur participant Philip Knowles and junior Landry Miller, and Saint Stephen's, which is led by Jack Tianyi Cen and David Gao, should challenge in the lower classifications.
Braden River is an improved group with Andrew Hammett utilizing a successful Greater Sarasota Junior Golf Association summer slate to boost his confidence with the Pirates this fall.
On the girls side, the Tomeo sisters (Gianna and Gabrielle) are expected to jolt Manatee throughout the year. Lakewood Ranch's Theresa Morrisey should provide a solid foundation at the front of the Mustangs' lineup.
And the Yan sisters (Michelle and Vanessa) have proven to anchor Saint Stephen's toward a state tournament appearance in the past and are expected to do it again in 2014.