LAKEWOOD RANCH -- For the past five years, Lakewood Ranch's boys golf program has become the pre-eminent program in the state.
Three consecutive state championships wedged around a runner-up and ninth place finish earns a lofty status.
Aside from the talented classes that have played at Ranch, the Mustangs featured a constant force at head coach with Dave Frantz.
This season, though, they're moving forward without Frantz, who retired but is staying on as an assistant coach, in charge.
But the transition to new head coach Jon Bullas won't be too much of a challenge with Bullas' familiarity with the squad already.
"It was kind of a natural fit, because I teach half of their team anyhow," said Bullas, who has his own golf academy at Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club.
Bullas, 39, is originally from Kent, England, and it was there where he battled some future PGA Tour players during his formative golfing years.
Bullas played against the likes of Paul Casey, Luke Donald and Justin Rose in a match-play format
"I used to beat Paul Casey a lot. He was nearer my
age," Bullas said.
Following his junior days in England, Bullas traveled across the pond for college golf at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
Then he played professionally on the South American, European Challenge and European Pro tours, but he realized he had enough in 2005 at the final stage of qualifying for the British Open.
"I couldn't concentrate," said Bullas, who was mixing teaching and playing until that career crossroads moment in 2005. "I was miserable. My daughter was 6 months old. She was at home in London. I was up in Scotland at the qualifier. I just said to my wife on the phone, 'I don't want to do this anymore.'"
So Bullas left the competitive grind and started teaching golf solely.
In 2006, Bullas relocated his family to the Suncoast and said the reason was they preferred raising a family on this coast of Florida.
Now he's taking on a new venture, but already has players in place to build a winning club.
Louie DelFabro, Michael Wijas, Billy Herten and Daniel Miller are returning, with the possibility that Kelly Sun, whose won the last two Donald Ross Memorial Invitational individual titles, will return.
Frantz said he's playing American Junior Golf Association tournaments in August, but is expected back.
"We've got a lot of good up-and-coming talent and we've got three or four really good freshman coming in." Bullas said. "So I don't think it'll be long, before we win another state title."
And turning the keys over to Bullas is two years in the making. Frantz originally planned to step away following the third straight state title team in the 2013-14 school year, but Bullas wasn't available then.
Now Bullas has the time freed up to devote to coaching high school golf.
"He's been around the program for years," Frantz said. "He was (last year senior) Barry McDonnell's coach, and, of course, Louie DelFabro's coach. Those were the two that were in the top six last year. ... So I'm very excited he's able to do it now, because he's the perfect guy. He's very knowledgeable and has a lot of experience."