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'Canes set a record on brink of district

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 27, 2002

The Citrus boys are peaking at the right time.

With the Class A, District 6 Tournament on Tuesday at The Dunes, the Hurricanes closed the regular season Thursday at El Diablo with a 5-over-par 149 nine-hole total, a school record.

Behind junior Robert Taylor's 2-under 34, a career-best, Citrus routed Crystal River by 28 strokes. Taylor hit six greens in regulation and had three birdies. Freshman Charlie Hendrick shot 37, Garrett Neal posted a 38 and Ian Morrill had 40.

The 'Canes were third in the district last year, earning a regional berth. Coach Chris Richardson thinks Citrus is better in 2002.

"I feel pretty good about our chances," Richardson said.

He thinks his top four players not only can break 80 in the district tourney, but challenge for the individual title. Taylor leads the team with a 38 nine-hole average.

The top four district squads advance to regional competition. The top four players not on one of the four qualifying teams also move on.

SIX-SHOOTER: Seven Rivers Christian senior Chris Roth will play in his sixth district tournament, according to Warriors coach Ross Kuntz.

Roth, who has a 38 average, began competing for Seven Rivers in the seventh grade.

So far he is 1-for-5 in districts. Two years ago, Roth advanced to regionals by shooting 75. Last season, he missed by a stroke.

"The potential is there," Kuntz said.

Roth recently fired a career-best 4-under 32 at World Woods.

"He's very good," Kuntz said. "He has been very consistent the last couple of years. He drives the ball well, but his putter and short game let him down sometimes."

Roth splits time between golf and fall soccer.

HURRICANE WARNING: The Citrus girls appear poised to make a return trip to regionals.

With three players carrying sub-50 averages, the Hurricanes should be among the teams to beat in the A-6 tournament Monday. Citrus was second to Saddlebrook Prep in 2001.

Christina Mitchell, now a senior, led the 'Canes at district last year with a career-low 77 that included a 37 on the back nine.

Mitchell started fast this year, hit a valley at midseason with a poor showing in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament, but has played well in recent weeks. Mitchell has a 45 average, and she closed the regular season with rounds of 43 and 45.

"Her average should be down around 42 or 43," Citrus coach Tom Darby said.

NEEDING A FOURTH: Crystal River reached its regional last year by defeating Zephyrhills in a playoff for the fourth spot. This Pirates squad, however, does not appear to have as much depth. Advancing beyond Tuesday could be difficult.

Seniors Brian Wilkerson (39.1) and Kelly Souheaver (41.5) and junior Mike Anderson (42.2) have the top averages. No other player is under 45.

"We were five deep last year," coach Jim Gabbard said. "This year we've got three kids capable of shooting 80 or better. We haven't had all five play well the same day."

Wilkerson could earn an individual spot. He had a low round of 37 at Southern Woods. "If he's putting well, he could shoot a good number," Gabbard said. "He has the length and hits his irons well."

TOUGH CHALLENGE: The Lecanto girls, who advanced to regionals last year, have a good chance of doing so again. The boys team has an uphill challenge.

The Panthers, led by consistent senior D.J. Wheat, will be hard-pressed to earn a top-four finish because 2A-3 is among the state's most competitive districts. Gainesville Buchholz placed fourth last year with a 303 total, good enough to win many districts. Lecanto shot 342 at conference last month.

"I hear it might take 300 or under to even make it out," boys coach Chuck Holstein said.

Wheat, though, could advance. "He definitely has a shot," Holstein said. "I expect him to be pretty focused. He's a tournament kind of golfer."

The Lecanto girls, despite having five players with averages of 51 or better, must contend with Buchholz, fourth at state in 2001.

LEARNING TIME: Before the GCAC event, four of Crystal River's five girls never had completed 18 holes -- not only for a match, but period. Behind senior Laurie Bixler (61 average), the 1-11 Pirates have modest district expectations. "I'm not sure the girls know what to expect." coach Tony Stukes said. "But we're improving. Our score has dropped our last three matches." The Pirates return three starters next year.

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