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Lakewood Ranch High girls golfers say the future is now

The Mustangs look like a state title contender even though they are relying on inexperienced players.

Phoenix Scanlan, Sabrina DiRubba, Emily Storm, Sierra Yeomans and Emma Albert have all contributed to the Mustangs' success in 2023.
Phoenix Scanlan, Sabrina DiRubba, Emily Storm, Sierra Yeomans and Emma Albert have all contributed to the Mustangs' success in 2023.
Photo by Ryan Kohn
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A dose of inexperience has brought a rush of energy to the Lakewood Ranch High girls golf program, along with a bit of unpredictability. 

Freshmen Phoenix Scanlan and Emma Albert were walking off the course after an early-season intra-squad match at Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club when Scanlan, feeling a surge of youthful exuberance, asked Albert if she wanted to play catch.

The "catch" in question involved a golf ball, given to them minutes earlier by Head Coach Mick Koczersut as a prize for winning the match. The "game" ball itself wasn't anything special, but it symbolized the players' growth. 

The ball soon found itself a new home in a storm drain when the game of catch went awry. Asked what happened, Scanlan only smiled and shrugged. 

The freshmen know if they play to their potential, they could finish the season with bigger and better prizes.

Lakewood Ranch High girls golf sophomore Emily Storm finished tied for 51st (84) at the 2022 FHSAA state tournament as a freshman.
Courtesy image

The team is ranked ninth in Class 3A by the Florida High School Athletic Association as of Oct. 20. The margin between the Mustangs and the teams immediately above them is relatively small. There are approximately six ratings points between Lakewood Ranch and third-place St. Cloud High.

There are approximately 13 ratings points between St. Cloud and first-place Lake Mary High. So while Lake Mary is a heavy favorite to take the title at the state meet — to be held Nov. 10-11 at Mission Inn Resort and Club in Howey-in-the-Hills — there will likely be a bronze medal, at the least, up for grabs. 

If Lakewood Ranch's group of five brings their best game, Koczersut said, anything is possible. 

"About halfway through the year, we saw that we had a chance to get back to states," Koczersut said. "At the beginning, the kids were a bit nervous. But they have grown. We're going to have to depend on everybody, but there's a chance." 

The program was expected to take a step back in 2023 after finishing eighth at the state meet in 2022. The Mustangs lost seniors Jessica Kobetitsch and Lauren Hosier — who both finished tied for 16th (77) at the state meet — to graduation. 

But the additions of Scanlan and Albert, plus the development of sophomore Emily Storm and seniors Sierra Yeomans and Sabrina DiRubba, have meant the Mustangs are in a similar spot as a season ago, with a future that could be even brighter.

Scanlan is ninth in the FHSAA's Class 3A individual rankings as of Oct. 20, and Storm (32nd) and Yeomans (86th) also rank high. Talking after the team's win over Sarasota High at Sarasota's Serenoa Golf Club on Oct. 19, Storm also pointed out the growth Albert and DiRubba have made over the season. As the playoffs get deeper, team depth becomes more important, and the Mustangs have it. 

Scanlan, who was a part of the First Tee of Sarasota/Manatee organization, said she did not know what to expect when joining the Mustangs. Other than a stint on the Sarasota Military Academy Prep middle school team, Scanlan hasn't played team golf — and at SMA Prep, she said, the players concentrated more on their own game than the team.

She hoped Lakewood Ranch would be different and so far, that has been the case. The players bonded right away, Scanlan said, despite everyone having different personalities. 

A preseason trip to University Town Center's PopStroke putting course helped. On other teams, Yeomans said, a team-building event like that could get overly competitive. Not with this group. Yeomans said the group did not even keep score, opting to use the outing as an icebreaker of sorts as everyone cracked jokes and goofed off, some even putting with their opposite hands. 

The program's chemistry has helped, according to the players. At the 2023 Donald Ross Memorial Invitational, held Oct. 9 at Sara Bay Country Club, Scanlan finished fourth overall (77) and the team finished third — but first among teams in its 3A class. The annual event brings the best programs in the Sarasota-Manatee area together and good results there typically portend good results in the postseason, which begins with the district tournament Oct. 24. 

Storm said the players relationships with each other does make a difference. Between rounds, the Mustangs will offer each other support and advice, she said. That was something that did not happen a season ago, and Storm would like to see it continue and grow. 

Koczersut said one of the keys to the season has been getting his inexperienced players to trust him. 

"They need positive reinforcement," Koczersut said. "They need to know I'm not going to be mad at them for making a mistake. The girls get more emotional playing high school golf than they do junior golf, because here, they can let their team down, not just themselves. They have to get used to that feeling."

So far, Koczersut said, the Mustangs have responded well, and he's happy that his inexperienced continue to want to be better. 

"Golf, overall, is a rollercoaster," Storm said. "You can have good days, or even play good golf for a few weeks, and then have some lows, and you ask yourself why? You can lose your head. These teammates help with that. It's been that way all year. We're going to support each other no matter what." 

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the name of St. Cloud High.



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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