LAKEWOOD RANCH — If there is one thing the Lakewood Ranch High boys golf team isn’t short on, it’s tournament experience.
This season, the Mustangs’ starting lineup boasted a pair of sophomores, a pair of juniors and a senior who all have spent the past several years competing at a high level.
So, when Lakewood traveled to Deer Island Country Club in Tavares for the Class 2A state championship Oct. 30 and Oct. 31, it wasn’t a matter of whether it was capable of competing with some of the top golf teams in the state — it was whether it believed it could defend its state title.
As the defending state champion, Lakewood had its sights set on winning another state title this season. But it wasn’t until the players were competing that the reality of the competition finally set in.
“It was different,” senior Ben Boulch says. “It was a little more intense. I didn’t really feel pressure, though; I was too focused on how cold I was, so I didn’t really have the opportunity to focus on what was going on around (me).”
The Mustangs overcame cold and windy conditions to capture their second consecutive state championship. Lakewood shot a combined 610 to finish three shots ahead of Ponte Vedra.
“It was a relief,” Boulch says of winning the state title. “We expected to win all year, so to get there and not achieve it in the end would have been a disappointment.”
Junior Danny Walker, who was the 2010 individual state champion, fired a combined 152 to lead the way for Lakewood. Junior Ramsey Touchberry and Boulch both shot 153. Sophomore Spence Schultz shot a 155, and sophomore Luke Miller shot a 167.
“It was a different kind of pressure this year,” coach Dave Frantz says. “It’s a good pressure to have. Last year we were undefeated going in and won the state championship. This year, we went to the state championship with a completely different lineup.
“This year it was how would those new players, who were new to the lineup, fill in those spots,” Frantz says. “We just wanted to give them enough experience and mainly enough confidence to perform at a high level, and I’m excited that they did perform at that level.”
With their state championship, the Mustangs finished the season 127-8, posting a school record for the most wins in a single season.
Following its victory, Lakewood broke out bottles of sparkling grape juice in celebration. However, the Mustangs decided their celebration technique wasn’t quite up to par, and the players heeded the advice of Boulch and dove into the pool.
“The youth of the team definitely played a part in some areas,” Frantz says. “I think because they are so experienced, they act more relaxed and crazy at times. They really like each other, so it’s cool to see.”
The Mustangs will lose a pair of seniors in Boulch and David Dill from this year’s squad. Boulch has aspirations of playing collegiate golf next fall and is looking at several schools across the country, including the University of North Florida and Embry-Riddle, among others.
“I’m going to miss the guys on the team,” Boulch says. “We have a good bond between us. All the trips we’ve taken have been good, and the times we’ve spent together (have been good). I’m going to miss those parts.”
Lakewood will look to Walker and Touchberry, who have both competed in three state championships, to lead the way for the Mustangs next fall. Frantz also is looking forward to the contributions of Barry McDonnell and twin brothers Charlie and Kelly Sun next season.
“People are already talking three-peat,” Frantz says. “Our (motto) for next year is Mission: Three-Peat.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].