HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS -- As they returned to the clubhouse Tuesday from Mission Inn’s 18th hole, a fretful group of Cypress Bay girls met coach Mike White with essentially the same question.
“They were all asking, ‘Coach, how far are we behind?’” White said, a good-natured grin hinting at the answer.
As it turned out, the Lightning stood second after a wind-whipped opening round of the Class 3A girls’ state championship, just four strokes behind Melbourne Viera.
Nor had the top teams done much to separate themselves. With three other squads lurking within 13 shots of the lead — including fellow Broward County entries Western and St. Thomas Aquinas — it sets up for a potentially nail-biting final round.
“It’s only a few strokes separating [five] teams right now, so that’s exciting,” White said. “Everybody played the same conditions. As bad as they think they played, we’re not that far out.”
It was just three years ago that the girls’ big-school tournament (previously 2A) came down to a single stroke, when Viera edged Orlando Olympia at Ocala’s Golden Hills Golf Club. But that was just a two-team race, with Naples Gulf Coast a distant third.
This time, the finish could be a mass sprint.
“Just a couple of strokes here and there,” said Aquinas coach Ed Waters. “It’s fun. Everybody’s in the same boat, and let’s get to tomorrow.”
Winds gusting upward of 20 mph turned Mission Inn’s Las Colinas course into a test of nerves. Only eight golfers posted scores of 76 or better.
“The scores aren’t low, but they’re all around the same,” Waters said. “You look at the scores and a lot of them are in the low 80s instead of the mid-70s. The girls hung in there pretty good.”
Viera set the pace with a team score of 325, as Samantha Brimhall’s 3-over-par 75 led three players who broke 80. Cypress Bay had no scores in the 70s, but the sisters Haupt – junior Valentina (80), senior Macarena (81) and sophomore Josefina (83) – produced a 329 total that was solid if not spectacular.
The Haupts arrived in South Florida from Chile last May, helping turn over a Lightning roster that finished runner-up to Lake Mary at last year’s 2A tournament.
A year ago, Cypress Bay came up short after trailing by 10 shots at the midway point. “That was hard to make up,” White said. “Right now we’re four [back], and the girls know they can play better.”
Western’s total of 335 was striking in its consistency, with Adriana Pineda’s 82 complemented by three other scores no higher than 85. Aquinas was another three shots back in fifth at 338.
After a quick lunch, all three Broward County entries could be found back on the practice green to work on chipping and putting.
“An improvement by one or two shots for each player pays dividends,” said Western coach Nick Pincket. “If everyone can pick their worst hole and make it better [Wednesday], we’ll have a chance.”
On the boys’ side, Cypress Bay endured some rough patches to place 11th after the first day. Lakewood Ranch, seeking a third consecutive crown, led the way with a 298 that left it seven shots ahead of Vero Beach.
Manuel Kent’s 76 paced the Lightning, while coach Vince Grossi praised the work of freshmen Jonathan Cachon and Kyle Anders. Cachon posted a 77 and Anders — part of the lineup only since districts — battled to a 90 that wound up counting toward the team score.
“He’s one of the players I’m most proud of,” Grossi said of Anders.
Douglas golfer Daniel Whelan, an individual qualifier, shot a 1-over 73 that left him tied for fifth. Lakewood Ranch’s Ramsey Touchberry led after a 68.