The high school state golf tournament ended last week on three little-known courses in three little-known towns in mid-Florida.
Little-known doesn’t mean the courses weren’t great. They were. And the crowds, mainly parents, family and friends, gave a substantial boost to the population of those three small towns — Howey-in-the-Hills, Tavares and Lady Lake.
Also in attendance were a flock of college coaches looking to scout the ample talent in Florida.
University of Florida coach Buddy Alexander, who has won two national championships and eight SEC titles in his 26 years leading the Gators, certainly liked the talent on display.
“Just about all the best players in the state play in this,” Alexander said. “You’d have to be crazy to not come down here and check it out. A lot of these players will play Division I golf. It’s very rare that I don’t come to this event.”
In fact, Florida sent two coaches to scout the golfers. Alexander’s assistant, John Handrigan, was also studying the players.
As the tournament finished up, Handrigan and Alexander could be seen on the far side of the 18th green watching some of Florida’s best, including numerous standouts from South Florida.
One of the players Alexander watched with intent interest was Kristian Caparros, who lives in Miami Lakes and attends golf powerhouse Plantation American Heritage. Caparros is a 10th-grader who has already committed to the Gators. Alexander was also eyeing Jorge Garcia, another 10th-grader from American Heritage. Garcia won the Class 1A individual championship and led Heritage to the team title.
Jacksonville coach Mike Blackburn said, “I’ve been at the state tournament the past three years, and it gives you a chance to see kids on a good golf course under tough conditions.” The “tough conditions” would be the ever-present wind that blows through the countryside at 25 mph or more.
“They have to show their talent in those conditions,” Blackburn said, “and it’s revealing.”
There’s only one difficulty for Blackburn and Alexander, and coaches like them. NCAA rules prohibit them from talking to players unless they are seniors and have finished their final stroke of the tournament.
One of the players coaches couldn’t talk to but they were certainly watching was on the girls’ side of the tournament. That would be Carrollton’s Tanya Eathakotti. She didn’t have a great tournament with a 90-88, but that can be forgiven. After all, she’s only a 13-year-old seventh-grader who is already mulling her college future — either in golf or as a heart surgeon.
NOVA NO. 1; BARRY 3
Nova Southeastern of Broward County remained No. 1 in the GolfWorld/Women’s Coaches Association NCAA Divisi1on II national rankings.
Barry University of Miami-Dade is ranked No. 3. The Buccaneers, coming off a win in their final fall tournament, moved up one spot in the poll from last month.