The team has now won back-to-back cups after dropping 10 of the first 11
Unlike a certain famous war, the North v. South battle that occurred July 23-24 at The Founders Golf Club actually was civil.
That didn’t make it any less exciting.
The Florida State Golf Association’s 2018 Junior Florida Cup pitted the best golfers in the state against each other to see which half of Florida is superior. What makes the tournament unique is its format: Played like the PGA’s Ryder Cup, each of the three rounds of the tournament are different match play games. It starts with four-ball, where pairs of players compete against each other, and the golfer with the lowest individual score on a given hole wins that hole for his or her team. Round two is played in mixed foursomes, where pairs of teammates alternate turns hitting the same ball. Round three is individual match play, where the goal is simply to get a lower overall score than your opponent. If you win your match, regardless of format, you earn a point for your team. If you tie, you earn half a point. Losing a match gets zero points. The team with the most points wins.
Each roster is made of 16 players (eight boys and eight girls) invited to participate by the FSGA, and this year Sarasota was home to four players on the South team: girls players Jacqueline Putrino, Aaron Whitley and Rachel Carlson, all on the Riverview High golf team, and boys player Max Coutsolioutsos, who attends The Out-of-Door Academy (Plus, fellow South boys golfer Drew Angelo is from nearby Lakewood Ranch). In other words, the Sarasota area had a major impact on how the South fared in the tournament.
They had the weight of the junior golf world on their shoulders. In the Cup’s 12-year history prior to 2018, the South team had won twice. One of those victories came in last year’s event, held in Ocala. Putrino and Coutsolioutsos were on that team, and Putrino said the experience helped in her preparation for this year and taught her how to be a better teammate. To prove that the South is here to say, the team had to do it again.
The South trailed 9.5-6.5 following the first two rounds, a significant disadvantage. It was enough to have Whitley believe her team was out of it, even though her teammates had a strong start to the final day. Her own match, against Longwood’s Ellen Dong, came down to a final putt.
“I was ‘one up’ on the last hole,” Whitley said. “I had a 5-foot putt to win it. I was nervous. When I made it, I saw my friends and teammates running at me. They poured water on me. I was stunned. It was awesome.”
Unbeknownst to Whitley, her putt had clinched the win for the South. The team won the tournament 17.5-14.5 after an 11-5 final round. Sinking the 5-foot putt created an unforgettable memory for all 16 members of her team.
Putrino wasn’t kidding when she said her experience last year helped her prepare. She was the only golfer on either team to win all three of her matches, and for her efforts was given the honor of being the first member of the team to lift the Cup.
“It was a shock,” Putrino said, on being given the honor. “A special experience, for sure.”
More than anything, the tournament is a chance for the best golfers in the state to have fun, and both Putrino and Whitley said the variety in events made for a great time, even if it’s not something they would want to play every weekend. They and their teammates are proud to represent the South team and prove the golf here is just as good as it is up north.
“We were viewed as the underdogs,” Whitley said, “and we came out on top.”