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Sarasota golfers prep for a unique event

The event will combine stroke play and match play.

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Sarasota High rising junior Carson Spence has never played a golf event like this, but he's ready. 

"It's going to be fun," Spence said. "It will be good experience for the future and good for this golf community, playing stroke play and match play together. I think I'll have the same mentality for both: just try to make par and advance to the finals on Sunday."

This weekend, 32 of the top boys high school golfers in Florida, including some from Sarasota, will come together for the Suncoast Jr. Match Play Invitational, which will combine two scoring types to make something rare. The weekend will begin with an 18-hole stroke play qualifier July 31 at Sarasota's Heritage Oaks Golf and Country Club. This event will cut the field from 32 to 16.

The next day, the remaining 16 will begin a match play event — meaning they go against another golfer one-on-one for nine holes, earning a point for each hole they finish better than their opponent — at Palm Aire Country Club.

Match play will continue until there are four competitors left. Those four will play each other in the finals at Laurel Oak Country Club Aug. 2, when an overall winner will be crowned. 

To be eligible for the field, golfers had to hold a handicap index of six or below. Sarasota golfers participating include Spence and fellow Sarasota High rising junior Evan Gaul; Booker High rising senior Jonah Winter; Riverview High rising juniors Connor DeMichele and Russell Aetonu; and Cardinal Mooney rising junior Wyatt Plattner. 

"We wanted to do something special for the kids with everything going on," event creator Bryan Veith said. "We thought it would be fun to incorporate match play into an event. More and more, college coaches are looking at golfers' abilities in both stroke play and match play events. The Southeastern Conference Championship is match play, as is the National Championship. They have to demonstrate that they can do both. This is a chance for them to prove they can do that against tough competition."

Veith confirmed that college coaches would be following the action of the event.

If a golfer performs well, it could lead to talks with a school they would not have made contact with otherwise. Veith also said the tournament's results would factor into golfer's Global Junior Golf Rankings, something that can also affect a golfer's chances of getting attention from colleges. Live scoring will be available online — as will a live stream of the final match — so those unable to attend in person can follow along with their favorite golfers as well. 

Plattner said he, too, plans on approaching the events with the same mentality: walk away with the win. Plattner said he's played in something like this once before, on the Florida Junior Tour, but normally gets in his match play practice against teammates, not some of the top golfers in the region. 

"Doesn't matter to me who is playing," Plattner said. "It won't change how I approach things. I like that it's hard, actually. It's more fun that way, so this weekend should be fun, too." 

The events are free to attend. More information on the even can be found by visiting the event's website or by visiting the Ultimate Golf Experience Facebook page



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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