Columbus golfer Julio Betancourt had a solid performance at the Westminster Christian Invitational, finishing second Tuesday.
But settling for runner-up trophies is not what the Explorers expect to be doing much this season.
As a team, Columbus secured the championship, and it could be the first of several for a squad that returns all of its key players from last season and is one of the deepest in Miami-Dade County.
“I don’t want to say it’s a sure thing because we’ve had talented teams in the past that haven’t finished strong, but there’s definitely the potential to make it a special year,” Columbus coach Mike Marinelli said. “If these guys play the way they’re capable of throughout the season, it could be an exciting year for us.”
Betancourt, the Miami Herald’s Dade Golfer of the Year, enters his junior season leading the Explorers’ talented squad that also brings back seniors Juan Yumar and Eddie Martinez.
In offseason play, Betancourt recently won the Palmetto Open to qualify for the prestigious Junior Orange Bowl tournament.
Yumar, the Westminster champion last season, also won the GMAC in 2012 and is one of six Columbus players that average 18-hole scores of 76 or better.
Martinez and his brother, sophomore Rafa, should give the team depth along with juniors Francisco DeLaTorre and Joaquin Trigueros.
Columbus and the majority of Miami-Dade’s large schools moved into Class 3A, as the Florida High School Athletic Association expanded golf to three classifications for the next two seasons.
The state tournament will now be played over two weekends on Oct. 29-30 for Classes 1A and 2A, and November 5-6 for Class 3A.
Like Columbus, Ransom Everglades’ girls are tired of finishing second to some of Broward County’s best.
The Raiders figure to have Dade’s most talented girls’ team returning their four top athletes, including junior Carolina Garrett.
Senior Alix Hamilton and juniors Chloe Horton and Katie Hanley should give Ransom depth and a chance to win several tournaments.
The Raiders qualified for state last season in Class 1A where they will remain, but no longer have to contend with some of the state’s best, including defending state runner-up Plantation American Heritage.
Ransom coach Julie Carse expects this to be her strongest team in the five years she’s been coaching the Raiders.
Ransom’s district rival Carrollton will be less-experienced this season, but led by eighth-grader Tanya Eathakotti, who has the potential to be Miami-Dade’s top individual girls’ golfer. Eathakotti was an individual state qualifier as a seventh-grader last year.