Sports

Donald Ross Memorial Invitational rained out

Ryan Kinkead of Saint Stephen’s, left, and Louis DelFabro of Lakewood Ranch High School exchange handshakes after 18 holes of golf Saturday at the Manatee County Golf Tournament.
Ryan Kinkead of Saint Stephen’s, left, and Louis DelFabro of Lakewood Ranch High School exchange handshakes after 18 holes of golf Saturday at the Manatee County Golf Tournament. jajones1@bradenton.com

Daren King walked around Sara Bay Country Club on Monday and he saw water.

Not the water hazards on the golf course, but the puddles that soaked the Manatee County track.

And for that reason, King, who is Sara Bay’s head pro, and staff made the call to cancel Tuesday’s 23rd annual Donald Ross Memorial Invitational, which involves high school golf teams from Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties.

“You can’t hardly walk on some of those fairways right now,” said King, who added they received about 6-7 inches of rain the past couple days.

Saint Stephen’s boys team polished off the program’s first Manatee County title last Saturday at Buffalo Creek Golf Course and were one of the favorites to compete for a Ross crown.

Head coach Matt Primrose said they were pretty psyched about playing Tuesday.

“My guys were pretty upset,” Primrose said. “... But (we) understand. There’s nothing they can do.”

The event was conceptualized in the 1990s to provide an 18-hole tournament for players in preparation for the postseason, which begins a week following the Ross.

The high school season traditionally features nine-hole matches after school. Lakewood Ranch, which won three consecutive state championships from 2011-13, began a trend of playing 18-hole tournaments around the state during its season to prepare for the postseason grind.

Still, the Donald Ross is widely viewed as an important event on the schedule.

“Being that we were going to be competing against a lot of the teams that we’ll be seeing in districts, so it would be a good idea to see what the other teams are bringing this time of year,” said Lakewood Ranch head coach John Victor, who is in his first year coaching the Mustangs.

Lakewood Ranch swept the boys and girls team titles last year, while Manatee’s Gabrielle Tomeo claimed her first individual title after a sudden-death playoff with Saint Stephen’s Vanessa Yan.

Lakewood Ranch’s boys team won the last five tournaments.

But there won’t be a chance to try for a sixth straight title as tournament officials canceled amid the heavy rains that blanketed the area the past couple days.

“It’s the biggest tournament that we really have other than districts, regions and states,” said Tomeo, a junior.

With the tournament taking place during the latter part of hurricane season, the opportunity is there for weather disruptions.

The cancellation is the first since 2006, while rain reduced the event to nine holes in 1999 and 2008.

“It’s a tough decision, but it definitely has to be made,” King said. “You have a lot of things in play as far as school goes.”

The tournament is traditionally held on Mondays but was switched to Tuesday this year because Sara Bay is closed on Tuesdays during the offseason.

Sara Bay has hosted the event because it offers the best test, with the trademark slick and sloping greens, for high school players looking to make a deep run to the state tournament.

“It does help, because it brings out the true players,” Tomeo said. “You really have to think to play a course like that, because of the greens.”

Among the 11 teams that were scheduled to compete in the girls division, Braden River, Lakewood Ranch, Manatee and Saint Stephen’s represented Manatee County.

Those same schools plus Bradenton Christian, Cardinal Mooney and Out-of-Door Academy were scheduled to be in the 16-team boys field.

District golf schedule

Monday

Boys

3A-14: Braden River, Lakewood Ranch, Manatee, Palmetto at Bent Tree (Sarasota), 10 a.m.

2A-19: Bayshore, Southeast at Harder Hall (Sebring), 9 a.m.

1A-16: Bradenton Christian, Cardinal Mooney, Out-of-Door Academy, Saint Stephen’s at The Meadows (Sarasota), 8 a.m.

Girls

3A-14: Braden River, Lakewood Ranch, Manatee, Palmetto at Capri Isles (Venice), 10 a.m.

1A-16: Cardinal Mooney, Out-of-Door Academy, Saint Stephen’s at The Meadows (Sarasota), 8 a.m.

Tuesday

Girls

2A-19: Bayshore, Southeast at Harder Hall (Sebring), 9 a.m.

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