The oldest and the youngest players on the Plantation American Heritage golf team waited until a tense last hole before pulling out a state championship on Wednesday.
Andreina Merchan, who is Heritage’s oldest player, and Casey Weindenfeld, who is the youngest, both birdied the 18th hole on the Las Colinas course at Mission Inn Resort & Club, and that was the difference in winning the Class2A title over neighborhood rival Archbishop McCarthy.
The two schools, which are located about four miles apart in Broward County, traveled to the hinterlands of Central Florida to finally determine which was the better team this season.
“We battled all day long,” Heritage coach Linda Sibio said, who wasn’t even positive her team had won once the final putt went in on the final hole.
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It was that close.
The final margin over the two-day tournament was two strokes — Heritage 630, McCarthy 632 — provided by those two birdies on 18.
“I can’t say enough about McCarthy and how hard they fought us,” Sibio said. “The golfing gods were with us on the 18th hole.”
McCarthy coach Carl Phillips was disappointed but said he was “really, really proud” of the grit his team showed.
“They never gave up,” Phillips said. “They just kept fighting.”
Merchan is a senior, and her leadership showed throughout the tournament.
Weindenfeld is young, but it is how young she is that boggles the mind. As a sixth-grader, she was the youngest competitor in the state championships. Less than two months ago, she was 11 years old.
One would think Weindenfeld would be lost, nervous and overwhelmed as she played amid a field of mostly juniors and seniors.
Not so. The sixth-grader seems to be pressure-proof.
Weindenfeld just merrily goes about her way, smiling and cracking up her teammates — and coach — with her carefree, bubbly attitude. Playing in the next-to-last group, her birdie on the par-5 18th came on a 15-foot putt.
Nothing to it.
Merchan, who finished fourth overall in Class2A with rounds of 74 and 71, followed in the last group and set up her 10-foot birdie putt with a 56-degree wedge.
“Knew it was going to be good,” she said of her approach. “When her ensuing putt went in, Merchan did something she has never done before. She made a fist pump.
“I never do that,” Merchan said, “but this was special.”
What was Sibio’s immediate reward for guiding the team to the state title? She got to guide them safely back to Broward.
“In a half-hour or so, I’ll load them on the bus and drive them home,” she said with a laugh. “At least this year it’s a small bus, not like the big one we had last year.
“We will have a fun ride.”
▪ The best performance by a Miami-Dade golfer in the Class3A portion of the tournament was Palmetto High ninth-grader Alex Rivas with a 73-77 —150 total to finish sixth in the individual standings.
Class 3A — Team: 1. Melbourne Viera, 625; 2. Lake Mary, 630; 3. Weston Cypress Bay, 636; 4. Orlando Dr. Phillips, 639; 5. Winter Garden West Orange, 656. Individual: 1. Athna Yang, Lake Region Eagle Lake, 144, won in playoff; 2. Selin Timur, Lake Mary 144; 3. Terese Romeo, Tampa Freedom, 145; 4. Gaby Munoz, Gainesville Buchholz, 148; 5. Taylor Rajeski, Melbourne Viera, 149.
Class 2A — Team: 1. Plantation American Heritage, 630; 2.Archbishop McCarthy, 632; 3. Lake Highland Prep, 638; 4. Seminole Osceola, 658; 5. St. John’s Bartram Trail. Individual: 1.Haydyn Gibson, Seminole Osceola, 141; 2. (tie) Emilee Pacheco, Pensacola, Katie Holt, Lake Minneola, 144; 4 .Andreina Merchan, Plantation American Heritage, Kendall Griffin, Sebring, 145.
Class 1A — Team: 1.Lake Mary Prep, 596; 2.Winter Park Circle Christian, 612; 3. Orlando First Academy, 618; 4. Delray Beach American Heritage, 620; 5.Jacksonville Providence, 652. Individual: 1. Sierra Brooks, Lake Mary Prep, 140; 2. Abbey Carlson, Circle Christian, 144; 3. (tie) Reagan Jahn, PB Gardens Benjamin, Dree Fausnaugh, Lake Mary Prep, 148; 5. (tie) Mary Janiga, Delray Beach American Heritage, Amy Zhang, Lake Mary Prep, 149.