By Rick Nolte, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — A week ago, Gulf Coast won the District 15-3A boys golf championship at Kingsway Country Club with a team score of 320.
Monday, the Sharks faced a longer, tougher Kingsway with more at stake — the Region 5 championship and a berth in next week’s state tournament.
Their score? 306.
“I didn’t think 320 was a bad number when we shot it last week,” Gulf Coast coach Kimberly Benedict said. “We played so much better today. I felt we were so well prepared, and we executed. Everyone beat their score for last week except Matt (Ariza).
“If you’d told me before we started we’d be throwing out a 79, I’d have been thrilled.”
The 14-stroke improvement, built on no score higher than 5-over-par 77, handed the Sharks the region championship by — interestingly — 14 strokes over runner-up Lakewood Ranch. The Mustangs, who also qualified for the state event in Howie-in-the-hills, finished a stroke ahead of Newsome, two up on Riverview and four up on Venice.
Newsome’s consolation prize was placing Tommy Wang, co-medalist with Gulf Coast’s Trace Babb, and Dhruv Patel in the field as the low individuals not on a qualifying team. Wang and Babb each shot 75 while Patel had 76.
Host Charlotte struggled on its home course, finishing seventh in the nine-team field with 347. North Port’s Zach Kubik, playing as an individual, shot 79 to finish first among those competing without teams and tied for 11th among the entire 54-player field.
Babb was followed by Christian Taylor, Peter George and Ryan Hunt, each with 77 as Gulf Coast’s counting scores. That quartet finished among the top seven individually.
“I think this was the fifth time we played the golf course,” Benedict said. We had a couple of days off last week at the end of the quarter and came up here. We were really prepared. There were some tough pins out there, but we had a plan, stuck to it and everyone came through.”
Charlotte coach Scott Harvey tipped his cap to the Sharks for their number on a course that was 200 yards longer and toughened by slicker greens over last week’s district.
“Fourteen shot (better), moving back a tee and with the speed of the greens, that was really impressive,” Harvey said.
Truman Bethel, who led Charlotte with 82, was the lone Tarpon to improve on his score over last week. Jake Haas and Billy Brumbaugh, the Tarpons Nos. 1-2, shot 87 and 91, respectively while Derek Yadanza (87) and Chris Cavic (91) rounded out the team.
“The conditions were tougher and we just didn’t seem to handle them,” Harvey said. “You get a few bad shots and then you’re not so confident and it eats at you.
“Truman played better than last week, but it’s a team effort.”
Kubik recovered from a “10” on the par-5 fifth hole for a solid showing as an individual for the Bobcats. Losing eight strokes to par on Nos. 5-7, the junior rebounded from a front nine of 44 with a 1-under-35 on the back when he had two of his three birdies on the day.
“I really felt solid going into the day,” he said. “I’ve been playing pretty well. That fifth hole hurt just about everybody. You just gotta play through it.”
Zubik said the hole location was near a slope on the green, that, coupled with the slick surface, made getting a putt to stay close if it didn’t find the cup, a risky proposition.
“I took five putts,” he said of his fifth-hole debacle. “Then I went bogey, double (bogey). But I stayed with it and played really well on the back.”
REGION 5-3A TOURNAMENT
At Kingsway Country Club
Gulf Coast (306): Trace Babb 75, Christian Taylor 77, Peter George 77. Ryan Hart 77, Matt Ariza 79.
Lakewood Ranch (320): Billy Herten 79, Louis Delfabo 79, Mike Wijas 79, Drew Angelo 83, Dylan Gabbart 89.
Newsome (321): Tommy Wang 75, Dhruv Patel 76, Drew Noel 84, Zach Ferrera 76, Joshua Organ 87.
Riverview (322): Pierce Roberts 77, Josh Perna 78, Eric Souchak 80, Steve Rauch 87, E.J. Odegard 88.
Venice (324): Jimmy Messina 79, Louis Fuimara 79, Eli Martin 81, Dean Badger 85, Gain Laowatdhanasapya 88.
Riverdale (339): Bobby Hurst 78, Mike Iwanski 78, Tainter Bundy 89, Zac Robbins 94, Devin Harris 124.
Charlotte (347): Truman Bethel 82, Derek Yadanza 87, Jake Haas 87, Billy Brumbaugh 91, Chris Cavic 91.
Strawberry Crest (354): Joshua Dent 83, Joseph Dent 85, James Morotti 87, Austin Grecsyn 99, Joseph Rivers 99.
Plant City (377): Kaelib Carlough 79, Andrew Lee 96, Peyton Martin 97, Jake Kolsa 105, Arie Fry 115.
1. (tie) Trace Babb (GC), Tommy Wang (N), 75; 3. Dhruv Patel (N), 76; 4. (tie) Christian Taylor (GC), Peter George (GC), Pierce Roberts (Rview), Ryan Hart (GC), 77; 8. (tie) Bobby Hurst (Rdale), Josh Perna (Rview), Mark Iwinski (Rdale) 78.
Individuals (no teams)
Zach Kubik (North Port) 79; Chandler Hammett (Braden River) 80; Cameron Wright (Bloomingdale) 82; Daylun Salters-Powe (Fort Myers) 85; Joshua Messmer (Fort Myers) 85; Austin Kuster (Sarasota) 88; Cameron Nero (Durant) 90; Trent Sones (South Fort Myers) 95; Chris Yecora (Bloomingdale) 104.