By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 20, 2002
EAST LAKE -- Revenge and redemption emerged as the themes in Mitchell's 11-stroke Sunshine Athletic Conference victory over defending champion Zephyrhills.
In Thursday's much-anticipated match, the Mustangs avenged last season's seven-stroke loss to the Bulldogs in the conference championship on this same Crescent Oaks course.
And Mitchell redeemed itself after Tuesday's performance, when the preseason SAC favorite lost its first match of the season to Ridgewood by one stroke. "For me, I was (happy) to see what kind of players we have, to see how we bounce back from that defeat Tuesday," coach Scott Williams said. "I'm proud of them. I really am."
Mitchell won 152-163, led by Kyle Laux's season- and team-best 34. He eagled the 484-yard par-5 No. 6 and birdied Nos. 1 and 9, and he could have done even better.
"He could have shot a 30," Williams said. "He holed out on three separate occasions on putts. He came close, very close, to shooting a 30."
"He was on fire, and it rubbed off on Tyler (Clippard) too."
After shooting a season-worst 43 against Ridgewood, Clippard fired back Thursday with 38 and birdied No. 5. R.C. Hyatt and Cole Cisbani rounded out the day for Mitchell (3-1), shooting 40 apiece.
Zephyrhills was led by Kyle Pierson's 39.
"His 39 was a blue-collar 39," coach Bob Hatfield said. "He worked and worked his way back in after two awful holes."
Pierson beat J.J. Mine by a stroke for the team's best showing. Jeff Zullo and Tyler Ruchti both shot 42. Assessing his team's performance, Hatfield was his usual blunt self.
"Our guys are not in the same class as Mitchell," he said. "We are a 163-165 team. We are 5-5 on the season, and I've played 11 or 12 players who have, not in one match, really played up to their potential. They have so much talent, except they don't put it on the scoreboard.
"But Mitchell is a very talented team. They not only score well, but they also manage the golf course very well."
Hatfield said his team is fine after the first tee shot. What happens afterward has been the problem.
"It was just an overall, typical round for us," Hatfield said. "Hit it well off the tee, be in wonderful position to make par and walk away with a 5, 6 or 7.
"We didn't keep the ball in play and we have absolutely no short game. Inside 50 yards, we're a nightmare. The truth hurts sometimes."
Williams, conversely, was pleased to see his team bounce back days after its first loss.
"I was just impressed by the whole team's rebound from Tuesday," Williams said. "Because we were definitely down. It was a wake-up call and they really responded. I think the match on Tuesday helped both teams, both Ridgewood and ourselves in different ways."
That's because the entire SAC race has been shaken up. After its 160-161 win Tuesday, Ridgewood stands atop the early-season leaderboard. Thursday was Zephyrhills' second conference loss, the first was to Land O'Lakes.