High School Sports

Year-round prep athlete: Golf and tennis

BRADENTON

As the five-foot putt rolled to the left of the hole, Tyler McCarthy couldn’t help but cringe.

It was only practice on the pristine greens at Stoneybrook Golf Course at Heritage Harbour last Saturday morning. But McCarthy can’t stand missing short putts — even when he’s by himself during the summer.

Those misses could carry over into the high school season.

“The green is leaning a little to the left,” the Braden River senior said. “I have to tap it more to the right.”

And with another swing of the putter, McCarthy’s next attempt found the bottom of the cup.

Success in prep sports is the end result of an athlete’s sweat, pain and sacrifices during June, July and August.

About a mile east of Stoneybrook, Dominic Cotrone is at full tilt on the Lakewood Ranch tennis courts, dealing with the sun’s heat radiating off the bluish cement.

“It takes a lot of motivation to do this during the summer,” Cotrone said. “I’m up every day at 7:30 a.m. out on the court. It doesn’t feel like summer to me, of course. Tennis always comes first before play. It’s rough, but looking into the future pretty much helps me.”

It helps Cotrone and McCarthy in more ways than one.

Both have played in several tournaments in their respective sports throughout the summer. That not only helps the players hone their crafts, but it also exposes them to college coaches during the most important recruiting time of the year.

“A lot of times, we don’t recruit out of the high schools like other sports do,” South Florida women’s golf coach Marci Kornegay said. “We don’t typically go to high school matches, because there are so many tournaments during the summertime. There are probably four to five tournaments every week on a national level that occur. The summertime is saturated with tremendous talent, and they want to make the commitment to go to college and play. They’ll make the commitment financially as well.”

The cost can add up in a hurry.

Cotrone, who made it to the Class 1A state tournament in the doubles competition last season, said he’s played in five tournaments this summer and spent upwards of $600 per tournament for entry fees, lodging, food and round-trip airfare for a three-day tournament for a grand total of $3,000, not including coaching fees for travel and time.

Mike Wilson coaches young tennis players at the Next Generation Tennis Academy at Longwood Run Athletic Center in Sarasota, including Cotrone and Out-of-Door Academy state girls tennis champion Caroline Dailey.

Wilson’s players travel to tournaments in groups, which helps ease the pain on the pocketbooks. In June, Wilson and two other coaches took 17 tennis players to the 61st annual USTA Florida Junior State Closed tournament in Daytona Beach.

“We split the cost of everything,” Wilson said. “We didn’t do a coaching fee for that tournament, which can be an exorbitance.

“We brought three coaches there, and we said ‘this is what it’s going to cost for three people to be there divided by 17.’ To have a coach there for the whole week was about $120.”

And having a coach onsite makes a world of difference.

“That’s where you can teach them the best,” Wilson added. “You can’t teach them just at your facility, because they are different people once they get into the competitive arena. You have to be there to learn their habits and their patterns.”

McCarthy said he has spent roughly $1,260 this summer playing in four tournaments around the state. He helped his parents by paying for half with a part-time job at Stoneybrook.

“With gas money, that’s all me,” said McCarthy, who qualified for the Class 1A regional tournament last season.

“My dad will help me with the hotel, and with my equipment we’ll go half.”

For players like Cotrone and McCarthy, they hope the sacrifices today will pay off down the road.

“I know all of the practice now will help me when I get older,” McCarthy said. “And the money I spend I don’t mind. It’s for the game, and I love it, so it’s worth it.”

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