By Chuck Ballaro, Sun Correspondent
CAPE CORAL – One phrase could describe the day for the Port Charlotte High School boys golf team: Gut-wrenching.
Not only did their freshman golfer just miss being regional champion, but the team missed out on a state bid by a single stroke, tying for third with Estero at the Region 2A-7 boys golf championship at Palmetto-Pines Golf Club in Cape Coral on Monday.
Head coach Rodney Taylor talked to his players afterward, particularly his three seniors, who put the golf program on the map with three district championships.
You could see the look of dejection, even tears in their eyes.
“I can feel it in the pit of my stomach. What was even worse is to see my seniors tearing up. They love the game so much, and I think it just hit them they have played their last high school match,” Taylor said. “That hurts worse than any loss.”
Naples (313) won the regional crown, six strokes better than Barron Collier (319), with Port Charlotte and Estero tied at 320.
Port Charlotte was led by freshman Marc Kaneko-Fujii, whose one-over 73 put him in a three-way playoff with Sam Nunner of Barron Collier and Estero’s Luke Farmer.
Farmer was eliminated on the first playoff hole, which Fujii nearly won when he just missed an uphill 20-foot putt for birdle.
After Fujii and Nunner parred the second, Fujii hit his tee shot on the par-three third over the green, then hit his second shot 12-feet past the hole, which led to a double-bogey. Nunner tapped in for par to win.
The fact Fujii qualified to states for finishing in the top two for golfers whose teams did not advance helped salve the wound somewhat, but being so close was a tough pill to swallow.
“I was feeling good. My six-iron wasn’t in the bag, so I pulled out a five-iron and hit it a little too clean with the wind,” Fujii said. “We all played well and did our best. Every round had that one shot that could have made the difference.
It almost didn’t happen. Fujii struggled on the front nine before his family, including former Lemon Bay golf standouts brother Yuki and sister Yumi, came for moral support.
Marc started the back nine with back-to-back birdies and didn’t bogey the rest of the way for a 34.
“I couldn’t make any putts and had bad shots on the front nine. I got support from my siblings and went birdie-birdie and suddenly felt real good,” Fujii said.
Older brother Yui Fujii shot an 81, No. 5 golfer, Logan Sorah had an 82, and Jacob Goldman had an 84. For all three, it was their final high school match.
Lemon Bay, which narrowly missed sending the team to regionals, brought three seniors, Sean Hinkle, Jacob Cooper and Chace Neer, but it wasn’t their day for any of them.
Cooper had an 86 after fading down the stretch, Hinle shot a 91, while Neer had a 94.
“We struggled a little in the wind. We missed some shots we could have made. Jacob had seven or eight shots that just missed,” said Lemon Bay coach Chuck Beahrs. “What’s bad is their high school carries are over and it’s a big loss for us.”
Region 2A-7 golf championship
At Palmetto-Pines GC
Naples 313, Barron Collier 319, Port Charlotte 320, Estero 320, Sarasota Military 327, Ida Baker 342, Cypress Lake 347, Hardee 361, Mariner 414
Top 10 individuals: 1. Sam Nunner (BC)73*, 2. Marc Kaneko-Fujii (PC) 73, 3. Luke Farmer (EST) 73, 4. Jack O’Hara (SMA) 75, 4. Sam Hershoff (BC) 75, 6. Jonah Manning (EST) 76, 7. James Tureskis (NAP) 77, 7. John Wolner (EST) 77, 7. Zach Perron (SMA) 77, 10. Conner Jaffe (NAP) 79.
Port Charlotte (320): Marc Kaneko-Fujii 73, Yui Fujii 81, Logan Sorah 82, Jacob Goldman 84, David Derocher 87.