HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS -- For nine holes Tuesday, Juan Yumar and his Columbus teammates figured they might be holding their own at the Class 3A state championship.
Then the winds picked up across Mission Inn’s fairways. Significantly.
“When I turned to my second nine, the wind just started picking up,” said Yumar, whose 2-over-par 74 helped the Explorers reach the midway point in 10th place.
“I was playing my same game, but I had three bogeys on the back nine. So that cost me. I think [the wind] may have cost my teammates, too.”
Blustery conditions created a severe test for contestants as they took on Mission Inn’s El Diablo layout, as gusts upward of 20 mph added at least four strokes to the typical scorecard.
One thing it didn’t seem to slow was Lakewood Ranch’s march to a third consecutive crown. The Mustangs were one of just two teams to count four scores that broke 80, compiling a 298 total that moved them seven shots ahead of Vero Beach.
The Explorers finished second to Lakewood Ranch at the Ida Baker Bulldog Invitational in early September, so they understood what they were up against. A top-five finish was a more realistic goal, but Tuesday’s conditions proved a tougher hurdle than they might have anticipated.
“A couple of guys came off saying, ‘This course was tough,’ ” Columbus coach Mike Marinelli said.
“These kids aren’t used to shooting these scores, so they’re a little disappointed. They’ve got to stay the course and hopefully we’ll have a better result [Wednesday]. They need to keep their head in it and not let themselves go.”
Though gusty conditions also can be found in South Florida, the Explorers found the combination with Mission Inn’s hilly terrain and undulating greens to be a stiff test.
“We’re not used to playing in these conditions, let’s put it that way,” Marinelli said.
Yumar’s 74 was a tale of two nines, with the wind providing the biggest difference. The senior birdied his second hole of the day on the way to making the turn in 1-under, but the wind played a role in those three late bogeys – especially hitting it close to the flagstick.
“I hit 13 or 14 greens [in regulation], so that’s good with these conditions,” Yumar said. “But I had 33 putts. That’s no good, but I’ll take it.”
Yumar made a great play to save himself from another bogey at No.7, three holes from his finish. Left with a poor angle to the green with his approach shot, he tried to hook it and wound up in a greenside bunker.
“I had a tough shot from the bunker,” he said, “but I got it within 7 or 8 feet and made the putt.”
Yumar’s teammates, Julio Betancourt and Francisco de la Torre, posted 80s, and Rafa Martinez contributed an 86.
“They know what the deal is,” Marinelli said. “When there’s a hole called ‘Devil’s Delight,’ you know it’s a fun track. But they’re hanging in there.”
Palmetto’s Michael Carter, who made it to Mission Hills as an individual qualifier, toured El Campeon with an 83.
On the girls’ side, three Broward entries remained in a tight race for the Class 3A title after one round at Mission Inn’s adjacent Las Colinas course.
Cypress Bay, paced by the sister trio of Valentina, Macarena and Josefina Haupt, trailed leaders Melbourne Viera by just four strokes at the midway point. Western was next, 10 off the pace, and St. Thomas Aquinas was another three shots back in fifth.
Coral Reef’s Leia Schwartz carded a 91 in her opening round as an individual qualifier.