HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS -- For the American Heritage boys, Tuesday didn’t quite live up to the usual high standards, as the Patriots went in pursuit of a second consecutive state golf championship.
But a tough day at Mission Inn came with plenty of encouragement: The Patriots are still within striking distance.
With Kristian Caparros’ even-par 72 helping to mitigate Jorge Garcia’s worst round of the season, Heritage finds itself eight shots behind Ponte Vedra heading to the final round of the Class 2A tournament.
“I thought it’d be a lot more,” said coach Brandt Moser, who didn’t wait for scores to post as he whisked his team to the restaurant inside the resort.
A successful comeback could produce a two-title day for the Patriots, with the Heritage girls in command for their first state title since 2009. Claudia De Antonio’s 71 matched her season best as the Patriots’ team score of 298 was 23 shots better than Lake Highland Prep.
“Our goal should be just to stay focused and not get frustrated by a [bad] shot,” said De Antonio, one of two girls to break par. “You’ve got to believe there are so many holes left and one shot isn’t going to make that big a difference.”
Archbishop McCarthy’s Ryan Stenmark’s 78 helped the boys to a share of fifth; the Mavericks’ girls were tied for sixth.
“It played a lot harder than we thought it was going to play,” said Carl Phillips, who coaches both teams and helped both end the school’s brief hiatus from the final stage. “It was a little bit of an eye-opener for them.”
American Heritage, which won last year’s Class 1A title by 27 shots before the sport was split into three classifications for 2013-14, will have to chase down this trophy. The Patriots combined for a 304 total after one round.
Ponte Vedra came in at 296, led by Taylor Funk’s 68.
“We thought anything under 300 would be a great day and we’d be in great position,” Moser said. “So 304 is a little more than we wanted, but we’re still in good position.”
The result came despite a 76 from Garcia — the first time this season that last year’s 1A individual champion didn’t break par. It also came with a two-shot penalty for playing the wrong ball on No. 17.
Moser said one of Garcia’s playing partners began the round with a different number on his ball, but switched mid-round without notifying anyone.
“Since he thought he was the only one playing a Titleist 2,” Moser said, “he didn’t do his due diligence and identify his ball [markings].”
Caparros, meantime, harnessed the gusty conditions to notch four birdies.
Asked if he can make up four shots on Funk — son of Champions Tour pro Fred Funk — Caparros answered with confidence. “He knows who I am,” he said, “and he knows I’ve got it in me.”
Both Broward entries endured a tough day at the Class 1A tournament in Tavares. Region champs Westminster Academy sits at the bottom of the 16-team field, while Calvary Christian 13th behind frontrunners Lake Mary Prep.