HOWEY IN THE HILLS - With a scorched first round attack on the Mission Inn Resort Golf Course, Fleming Island sophomore golfer Tyler Mawhinney, with a hole in one and an eagle (2-under par) on round …
HOWEY IN THE HILLS - With a scorched first round attack on the Mission Inn Resort Golf Course, Fleming Island sophomore golfer Tyler Mawhinney, with a hole in one and an eagle (2-under par) on round one, raced to a first round 68 to lead the Class 3A championship golf tournament held Friday and Saturday, then stayed the course to finish as Class 3A individual champion and also to lead the Golden Eagles to a first-ever team title.
"I think we are the only Clay County team to ever win a state golf team championship with the Middleburg guy (Cody Carroll) the last individual champion a few years ago," said Fleming Island golf coach Bruce Cloud, noting Mawhinney was seventh last year as a sophomore in a one round championship (73) due to weather. "To say this was a challenging finish of the season is an understatement, but the boys got their heads right and played a great weekend of golf."
Along with the Fleming Island boys, the Fleming Island girls golf team improved from 12th last year to sixth behind team champion Lake Mary, the defending 3A champions, with seniors Cambree Hodge and Kalia Polete scoring the top two finishes; Hodge 16th with a 152 total (75, 77), Polete 34th with a 158 total (80, 78). Fleming Island's finish is impressive as top golfer Alyzbeth Morgan (second state finisher last year tied with Hodge at 62nd behind Polete at 46th) missed the entire season with knee injury rehabilitation from an injury suffered at last year's state tournament.
"The girls told themselves that Alyzabeth was not going to be able to join the team this year and I think they took it upon themselves to practice with a little more diligence to get back to state," said Fleming Island girls golf coach Brian Nedrich. "We were two or three putts per girls away from a solid top three finish out there, but that course is very tough."
Kathleen High junior Darby Hancock (7th last year) won with a 141 total ahead of Buchholz' Braydn Smith, last year's runner-up, who finished at 144. Lake Mary totaled 600 to Doral Academy at 653 (5th last year) and Niceville at 655 (2nd last year). Fleming Island, 12th last year, finished at 666.
"Everyone knew Lake Mary was lights out the best team out there and we were all shooting for second place," said Nedrich.
In the boys tournament run up, Cloud's reference to a challenging finish was that his team nearly did not qualify to even arrive in Howey in the Hills as they finished a disturbing third in their region tournament.
"We finished as undefeated in stroke play for the regular season, a strong district championship tournament, then a disastrous region finish," said Cloud. "We got the at-large bid to come here probably because of our regular season finish and record finish at districts, but talk about stress."
Adding to Cloud's stress level before the tournament event started was a flu attack on golfer Dylan Frein.
"He was just not feeling right and we figured a flu, we pulled him and he was very gracious about it, not being at full strength, and sophomore Carson Moore stepped in and did a nice job," said Cloud. "Dylan did what was best for the team and it may have put the other guys on notice to up their game a bit."
For Mawhinney, who has been the top striker for Cloud for most of the season, round one was about as good a round as a state championship round could get.
"The first nine holes of the Campeon course are very difficult and he opened with four pars and a double bogie," said Cloud. "He stayed calm like he does, made some adjustments then hit three more pars and a birdie to finish just one over (36, par 72 course). From there, he was on fire."
Mawhinney regrouped with his eagle three on a par five 10th hole; 562 yards, a bogie and par, then two birdies; 335 and 524 yard holes, before spinning in a hole in one on a par three 139 yarder.
"I knew what I had to do and my dad; assistant coach Joey Mawhinney, kept telling me to stay calm and play my game," said Mawhinney. "The second nine of the course was a little easier than the first nine. My driver is the key to my end game."
Mawhinney finished with three pars to close at 68 and lead the field with a first nine of 36 and a second nine at 32.
Mawhinney's two main challengers, junior Anthony Monteleone of Winter Haven (45th last year) and junior Parker Severs of Lakewood Ranch (seventh last year), both second at 143 to Mawhinney's winning 140 total (68, 72), could not keep pace with Mawhinney's total game with Severs rolling through a 33 first nine holes, but going par for a 70 off the final nine holes to finish at 70 (2-under par).
Severs momentarily took the tournament lead over Mawhinney in round two, but went 36 (three bogies) and 37 (two bogies) for a 73 (1-over) final round.
"I was in one of the last groups to go out and all the golfers in front of me were making their moves to catch up," said Mawhinney. "I just wanted to play my game, make pars and let them chase me. I knew the second half was going to be where I could get back in the lead. I had some trouble on four (bogie), but kept playing par and got three birdies to finish."
Monteleone opened with a 34, 36 combo in round one with four bogies and seven birdies to stay within two strokes of Mawhinney, but round two saw Monteleone crumble in the first nine with three bogies and a disastrous double bogie to a 39. Monteleone recovered with three birdies and pars to finish, but Mawhinney stayed focus with two birdies, six pars and one bogie.
"We had a substantial lead in the team scores and I told the team to stay with pars for the win," said Cloud. "We didn't need to risk shots for birdies and we wanted the team title. Tyler was going to do Tyler and finish strong which he did."
Behind Mawhinney, also having astounding rounds of golf to supplement Mawhinney's front running pace were senior Jaylen Abbas at fourth in a tie with a 145 (75, 70) total and junior Emmet Kuhlenkamp in sixth at 146 (74, 72).
"All of these guys were talking before the season that they were going to win the state title and do what it takes to get there," said Cloud. "For the whole season, they kind of watched out for each other and got on to each other when the intensity went down. If one of them missed a practice, he got the talk about letting the team down. I was pretty lucky to have a strong team; mentally tough and focused."
The rest of the scoring came from Ryan Houck, a sophomore, with a 152 total and Moore at 160.
Fleming Island girls roster
1. Cambree Hodge, Sr. 152
2. Kalia Polete, Sr., 158
3. Chloe Blanc, Jr., 175
4. Shayla Abbas, Fr., 181
5. Kathryn McNeill, Jr., 182
Fleming Island boys roster
1. Tyler Mawhinney, Soph., 140
2. Jaylen Abbas, Sr., 145
3. Emmet Kuhlenkamp, Jr., 146
4. Ryan Houck, Soph., 152
5. Carson Moore, Soph., 160
2A Boys Championships
1. Ponte Vedra 610
2. Beachside 617
3. American Heritage (Broward) 622
Individual: Brock Buhnerkemper OPHS
68th: 167 (85, 82)
2A Girls Championships
1. Beachside 600
2. American Heritage (Broward) 603
3. Ponte Vedra 636
Individual: Neva Winslow MHS
66th: 178 (90, 88)