Returnees, freshmen and new-to-area players has Lakewood Ranch's golf squad rolling.
Dave Frantz wanted to give some last-minute instructions.
Frantz, the boys golf coach at Lakewood Ranch High, went to give senior Johnny May a pep talk before May teed off on the first day of the Ultimate Golf Experience Suncoast Invitational, held Sept. 24-25 at River Strand Golf Club and Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club. After May's pep talk, event organizers reminded Frantz that, though he could talk to his golfers before the round, after the round and between each hole, he could not coach his golfers once they had teed off on a hole, per tournament rules. Frantz disagreed with the rule, arguing that the Florida High School Athletic Association's rules allowed such talks to occur, but he did agree to follow it in the end.
Frantz wanted to use every opportunity to teach that he could find, as this season promises to be special for the Mustangs.
Frantz had expected some improvement in his team over last season, when it failed to qualify for the state tournament. Then-junior Tim Williamson qualified as an individual and finished 19th, shooting 75-78—153. Frantz said everyone other than Williamson was disappointed last season and they all worked hard to improve.
They did. Frantz said all his returning players, now, on their best day, can shoot 10 strokes lower than a year ago.
The team's improvement didn't stop there, though. The Mustangs added two talented area freshmen in Jaxon Brown and Parker Severs, the brother of junior Mustang Preston Severs. Both Parker Severs and Brown have been team medalists this season, Severs (69) at the Riverview Invitational on Sept. 11 and Brown (74) at the Crutchfield/Hawkins Invitational on Sept. 20.
Lakewood Ranch's outlook was further bolstered by the arrival of senior golfer Jack Burbee and his brother, freshman Henry Burbee, who moved to the area from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Frantz said Jack Burbee has been the team's most consistent golfer this year.
"He (Burbee) blocks everything out," Frantz said. "He's a happy-go-lucky guy. He doesn't worry about any extraneous things. You could say, 'Hey Jack, we're going to go play three holes and you have to play it 7,000 yards,' and he'd say, 'Yeah, let's do it.' He always has an open mind."
That's a characteristic that runs through the team, Frantz said. Having so many talented players — and so many self-motivated players — helps keep practices lively. Frantz said they all want to do their best every time out. In fact, Frantz said, the hardest part about coaching this year's team is making sure every golfer feels like he could be the star of any given tournament.
After missing the state tournament last year, Frantz is confident his team will qualify this postseason. As for how well the Mustangs can do once there, Frantz said he will have a better idea of that in the coming weeks. The Mustangs haven't seen many teams from outside the Gulf Coast area, he said. Getting to see those teams will tell him how the Mustangs match up.
They saw a few at the Crutchfield/Hawkins Invitational, held at Sun N' Fun Golf Club in Lakeland on Sept. 20. The Mustangs finished second at the event (301), seven strokes behind Windermere High, one of the premiere programs in the Orlando area. It was the Mustangs' eighth tournament of the season and only the second where they did not finish in first place.
"The more we see those teams and either beat them or almost beat them, the more confidence we will have and the better we will play," Frantz said.
They will also get tested at the 2021 Donald Ross Invitational Oct. 4 at Bradenton's Sara Bay Country Club. The annual event is often a barometer for success at the state level. Last year, the Saint Stephen's Episcopal boys team won the event (303), then finished seventh at the Class 1A state tournament. Riverview High finished second (304), then finished 10th at the Class 3A state tournament. On the girls side, Riverview won the event (224) and went on to capture the Class 3A title at states as well.
This article has been updated to clarify the discussion between Dave Frantz and tournament officials at the Ultimate Golf Experience Suncoast Invitational.
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