The Plantation American Heritage boys’ golf team showed up at the state championships in the proper frame of mind — that would be mad as well as determined.
Who were they mad at? Themselves.
A year ago, the Patriots were heralded as one of the best high school teams in the nation.
Then, in the state tournament, they found out they weren’t, losing the Class 2A title to Ponte Vedra by two strokes.
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“That has been grinding on us all year,” Heritage coach Brandt Moser said. “There wasn’t hardly a week that went by this season without the kids making mention of it. It hurt these kids.”
The Patriots returned some of that hurt on Tuesday, taking a 14-stroke lead after the first day of this year’s version of the Class 2A state championship.
In addition to the substantial team lead heading into Wednesday’s final round, American Heritage had the top two individual players — Jorge Garcia and Kristian Caparros, longtime friends as well as longtime teammates — on the leaderboard.
Garcia, who will be playing for Florida next year, posted a 4-under-par 68 to hold first place, and Caparros, whose immediate future is finishing high school and trying to break into the pro ranks, held second at 69.
Caparros and Garcia definitely agree on one thing.
Winning this year will help ease the thoughts of last year’s lost championship, but it can’t eliminate those memories.
“We have a chip on our shoulder this year,” Caparros said, “but winning this year can’t make what happened go away.”
Added Garcia, “What happened last year will always be on our minds. People talked about us being the best team in the nation and we knew what we were capable of, so we were really disappointed when we didn’t live up to expectations.”
On Tuesday, the Patriots admirably fulfilled expectations with a 1-under 287 total, and in the process also extracted some revenge as Ponte Vedra, the team that beat them a year ago, was in third place but a distant 24 strokes behind. Jacksonville Bolles held second at 301.
If they do complete their determined-for-a-year run to this year’s state title, that will mark two championships in three years. The Patriots won as a team in 2012, and Garcia also won the individual title that year.
Garcia, with a smile, said he wouldn’t mind pulling off the team-individual double again this year, but he knows well the team championship is the more important of those two.
Of Wednesday’s final round, Garcia said, “We just have to do our jobs. We are in a spot to control our destiny.”
Patriots coach Moser didn’t try to overly motivate his team for state by constantly harking on what happened last year. He said he knew his players would be motivating themselves.
“Sometimes,” Moser said, “the best coaching job can be not coaching at all.”
▪ For Miami Dade teams, 2014 proved a tough year. No boys’ teams qualified for state in any of the three classes and no individual qualifier finished in the top 20.
CLASS 3A: Team – 1. Lake Mary, 295; 2. Boca Raton, 296; 3. (tie) Melbourne Viera, Tampa Plant, 302; 5. Lake Worth Park Vista, 304. Dade or Broward teams in top 16: 10. Davie Western 315; 11. Western Cypress Bay. Individual: 1. Gabriel Lench, Lake Mary, 68; 2. (tie) Sam Horsfield, Davenport Ridge Community, Robby Eisch, Tampa Plant, 69; 4. John August, Lake Worth Park Vista, 70. Dade or Broward players in top 20: 11. (tie) Ethan Cairns, Davie Western; 17. (tie) Daniel Whelan, Parkland Douglas, 74.
CLASS 2A: Team – 1. Plantation American Heritage, 287; 2. Jacksonville Bolles, 301; 3. Ponte Vedra, 311; 4. (tie) Gulf Breeze, Fernandina Beach, 319. Other Dade or Broward teams in top 16: 7. Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest, 323. Individual: 1. Jorge Garcia, Plantation American Heritage, 68; 2. Kristian Caparros, Plantation American Heritage, 60; Michael Stewart, New Port Richey River Ridge, 70; 4. (tie) Corey Carlson, Green Cove Springs Clay, Jake Grula Orlando Lake Highland Prep, 72. Other Dade or Broward players in top 20: Matt Mourin, Plantation American Heritage, 73; 16. (tie) Tyler Strafaci, Plantation American Heritage, Leo Coll, Plantation American Heritage, Steve Chervony, Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest, 77.
CLASS 1A: Team – 1. Winter Park Circle Christian, 300; 2. Windermere Prep, 303; 3. PB Gardens Benjamin, 305; 4. Lake Mary Prep, 307; 5. Bradenton St. Stephen’s, 321. Dade or Broward teams in top 16: 14. (tie) Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian, Davie University School, 352. Individual: 1. (tie) Greyson Porter, St. Pete Shorecrest, Eugene Hong, Winter Park Circle Christian, 70; 3. Trevor Hulbert, Orlando First Academy, 71; 4. Luis Gagne, Orlando Christian Prep, 72; 5. (tie) Bryce Burke, Windermere Prep, Andrew Kozan, WPB King’s Academy, 73. Dade or Broward players in top 20: None.