MANATEE -- Lakewood Ranch's Kelly Sun said he wasn't expecting to win his second consecutive Donald Ross Memorial Invitational at Sara Bay Country Club on Monday.
But after birdies on the final two holes, Sun accomplished just that.
He posted a 3-under par 69 to edge Saint Stephen's Jack Cen and Bradenton Christian's Philip Knowles by one shot to become the third player in the 21-year tournament history to win back-to-back boys championships.
Sun joined former BCS golfer Matt Raitz (1995-96) and former Saint Stephen's and Oklahoma State University star Tyler Leon (2001-02) as double winners.
"The course played a little harder than last year," Sun said. "Because last year the greens were much more firmer. This year there was so much more rain, so the ball just spun back more."
The Mustangs (44-10) also made history by becoming the first program to collect four straight Ross team titles after their 2-over par 290 was 16 shots better than runner-up Sarasota Christian.
Spence Schultz (71), Charlie Sun (75), Barry McDonnell (75) and Ben Parisi (80) rounded out Ranch. The top four of five scores for each nine holes were used to determine the team score.
"For a long time, we couldn't win it," Mustangs head coach Dave Frantz said. "And it's the premier event
in our area. The golf course is awesome, the greens are difficult. Sometimes it's windy. It's not incredibly long, but the greens make up for that. It's a challenge. And it's kind of our neighborhood, so we want to say, 'Hey, this is who we are and we are going to try and challenge every team that's out here.'"
The victory for Sun was aided by Knowles' poor back nine that reached a pivotal stretch at the end.
After ripping the front nine to shreds with a 4-under par 32, which was three better than Sun's front side, Knowles limped in with a 38.
The Bradenton Christian senior, who qualified for the United States Amateur this past summer, had trouble with his putting during the final few holes.
"I was cruising, and I came around to 16 and I hit a shot in there about 3 feet," Knowles said. "And I knew I had two par-5s ahead of me, I'm thinking, 'I'm 3-under at this point, I'll make this one and get to 4-(under),' ... I three-putted it from 3 feet. It didn't hit the hole, and then I kind of lazily stepped up there and missed a 2-footer. ... I come to 17 and I hit driver, 4-iron to the middle of the green and two-putt for birdie. I come to 18, I hit driver, 5-iron to 20-feet and I four-putted from 20-feet for eagle. To finish with a bogey instead of a birdie, obviously I lost by a shot. I feel like I played better than anyone else out there (Monday) by a couple shots. ... It's just something I've never done before."
Cen earned second place honors over Knowles after a par on the first sudden-death playoff hole.
Meanwhile, the girls division went to Venice, who had a 341 total, by nine shots over Saint Stephen's.
The Falcons, though, did get a top trophy when Michelle Yan unseated Manatee's Gianna Tomeo as the new Ross girls individual champion.
Yan's 2-under par 70 was three better than Tomeo, who entered as a back-to-back champ.
"It was the other way around last year," Tomeo said. "I beat her by two strokes, but she's a great player."
A key to Yan's round was her consistent ball striking that paid off with a hole-in-one on the par-3 fourth hole. Using a 50-degree wedge from roughly 85 yards, Yan spun her shot back into the cup.
"This was my first hole-in-one in a tournament," said Yan, who now has two career aces under her belt. "I would have won without the hole-in-one, but that really gave me that boost of confidence."
The Hurricanes finished in third place, while Lakewood Ranch's girls took fourth.
Other area teams that competed on the boys side were Out-of-Door Academy, Manatee, Braden River and Cardinal Mooney.
The Manatee County Championship is slated for county boys programs on Wednesday at Manatee County Golf Course, and the postseason begins next week with district tournaments.
21ST ANNUAL DONALD ROSS MEMORIAL INVITATIONAL
At Sara Bay Country Club
BOYS (top two places awarded)
1. Lakewood Ranch, 290; 2. Sarasota Christian, 306.
Individuals (*-playoff win)
1. Kelly Sun (LR), 69; *2. Jack Cen (Saint Stephen's), 70; 3. Philip Knowles (Bradenton Christian), 70.
Local scores (top 4 of 5 per 9 holes count)
1. Lakewood Ranch (290) - Kelly Sun (65), Spence Schultz (71), Charlie Sun (75), Barry McDonnell (75), Ben Parisi (80).
4. Saint Stephen's (311) - Jack Cen (70), Ryan Kinkead (89), David Gao (76), Austin Wymer (80), Ming Wong (85).
6. Bradenton Christian (316) - Philip Knowles (70), Landry Miller (80), Jack Knowles (78), Trent Bell (91), Duncan Sikkema (88).
8. Out-of-Door Academy (332) - Jon Eichenbaum (88), Francisco Marcano (85), Max Coutsolioutsos (75), Nick Grano (91), Josh Silverman (87).
9. Manatee (344) - Richard Bennett (88), Moe Wood (87), Robby Tingler (82), Harrison Fuller (87), Parry Foster (101).
11. Braden River (347) -- Andrew Hammett (WD), Bobby Gagner (88), Chandler Hammett (87), Brandon Pozzie (86), Mathew Bruton (89).
12. Cardinal Mooney (357) - Kyle Jarrett (84), Jake LaMore (85), Dalton Plattner (89), Mabry Robinson (101), Michael Staikos (105).
GIRLS (top two places awarded)
1. Venice, 341; 2. Saint Stephen's, 350.
1. Michelle Yan (SS), 70; 2. Gianna Tomeo (Manatee), 73.
2. Saint Stephen's (350) - Michelle Yan (70), Vanessa Yan (78), Natalie Pleyerova (77), Kendall Miller (126).
3. Manatee (366) - Gabrielle Tomeo (84), Gianna Tomeo (73), Danielle Wolfe (93), Rebecca Byrnes (116).
4. Lakewood Ranch (387) - Theresa Morrissey (82), Sophia Warren (104), Darby Laurvick (95), Morgan Mulholland (106).