By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
If the last two years are any indication, this year’s boys Charlotte County Championship should be another tight finish.
Charlotte and Port Charlotte went down to the wire during last year’s 27-hole tournament, with the Tarpons inching out a two-stroke victory after the two tied in a rain shortened 10-hole battle the year before.
The Pirates are hoping to redeem themselves and avenge last year’s loss. But the Tarpons are ready for a repeat.
“Bragging rights are big. Bragging rights are BIG,” Charlotte coach Scott Harvey said. “We played (Port Charlotte) a lot last year. For some reason they were always scheduled where we were so we got them a lot, maybe eight or nine times. They got us one time and that doesn’t feel good. But they were a good team. They always played well against us so the competition is good. It can only help these kids and push themselves stronger.”
Port Charlotte has put together a strong campaign this season, going 13-0 in all its tri-matches. The quartet of Yui Fujii, Marc Kaneko, Jacob Goldman and Logan Sorah have put together a team-best score of 149 this season, which is lower than Charlotte’s season average of around 160.
“It’s a big deal with the county championship,” Port Charlotte coach Rodney Taylor said. “The guys are hoping to take this one to even the score for this year.”
There’s a new twist this season, one that the three schools believe provides a fairer advantage to their golfers. This year’s tournament will be 36 holes spread across three days with each school getting to play at least nine holes on its home course.
The tournament begins this afternoon with nine holes at Port Charlotte Golf Club, then nine more at Kingsway Country Club in Punta Gorda Wednesday. The event finishes Friday with 18 holes at Rotonda Palms, Lemon Bay’s home course.
“It’s going to make it more of a representation of the golfer,” Harvey said.
Charlotte has hit the fairway this year without Jimmy Laurin, last season’s No. 1. Laurin, who graduated, finished with a 27-hole total of 112 in last year’s championship but so did Jake Haas, who was has assumed Laurins’ spot at No. 1 for the Tarpons.
Haas, who’s averaging around 38 for nine holes this year, says he doesn’t feel any added pressure to perform without Laurin.
“I just go out and play my game,” Haas said. “If I play my game I’ll be fine so I just have to go out and do what I know how to do.”
Harvey’s expectation is for his squad to shoot around 640 for the 36-hole event, which he hopes will be enough to take home another title. He expects the final scores to be close again this year and that includes Lemon Bay, which finished with a team total of 526 in last year’s tournament, 62 strokes behind Charlotte.
“I think we’re all tight this year. I think Lemon Bay’s been throwing some good scores up and we’re looking forward to it,” Harvey said. “I like that the kids in the area are getting better. There was a time where not all the schools were really good. It goes through cycles, but this year we look like we’re going to have three good days ahead of us.
“We want to play the best so hey, if it’s our neighbors across the river, that’s great.”
The county championship also will be an opportunity for Lemon Bay to prove itself again against Port Charlotte. Both teams are members of District 19-2A and Port Charlotte recently edged Lemon Bay in a tri-match and has won the district championship the past two seasons.
The Manta Rays recently shot their best round of the season with a 165 and they’re hoping this week will be a confidence boost heading into next month’s district tournament.”
“Port Charlotte has kind of had our number so far this year but we’re close,” Lemon Bay coach Chuck Beahrs said. “We’re right on the brink of possibly beating them and hopefully we can do it at district and win the district championship.”
This week should certainly be a good measuring stick for all three schools. Harvey admits the Tarpons have their eyes ahead to the district tournament next month, but they’re focused on the job at hand this week – repeating.
“Our expectation is to win and do as well as we can and hopefully pull it out,” Haas said.