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Hurricanes' Taylor looks to stay on roll

The district champion hopes his streak of outstanding play continues on course to state.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 3, 2002

INVERNESS -- Although Robert Taylor had broken par only five or six times in his life, the Citrus junior was not surprised by his eye-catching 3-under-par 69 in last week's Class A, District 6 Tournament at The Dunes.

"I had been playing well for a while," Taylor said. "I went out there expecting to shoot low."

Mission accomplished. Taylor opened with a 33 on the front, then came in with 36 to win by two strokes.

"As I started going through the round, I got more comfortable out there," he said.

Taylor entered district on a high note. In a nine-hole match the previous week at El Diablo, among the area's most difficult courses, he shot 34. At the time, it was the low round of his career. He followed that with a 74 in his district practice round. "That really boosted my confidence," Taylor said.

Taylor fired 69 in a summer tourney at Citrus Hills and a career-best 67 while playing for fun at Inverness Golf and Country Club. But neither score came with so much at stake. At district, he made four birdies and an eagle to top a field that included the star-studded lineup of state power Saddlebrook Prep. Taylor's only big miscue: a double-bogey on the par-4 14th.

"I hooked my drive deep into the woods, just like I did in our practice round," he said. "The tee shot really sets you up to the left. I didn't notice it. I aimed left and hooked it. I punched out to 70 yards, then hit a really bad wedge."

Bad shots have been few and far between. Taylor placed fifth at district in 2001 with a 76, then carded a 79 in a regional to earn Times All-Citrus/Hernando recognition. This fall, he posted a 38 regular-season nine-hole average, tied for best in county.

"Robert knows how to score," Citrus coach Chris Richardson said. "There's a big difference between Robert's game last year and Robert's game this year."

In Monday's Region 3 tournament at The Champions Club in Jacksonville, Taylor will enter as a top contender to advance to state. Thanks to his last performance, he knows anything is possible.

"I guess (the 69) raises expectations of me, but I'm just going to play my game," Taylor said. "I'm just going to keep playing the way I'm playing. Last year, I didn't quite have the experience. Now, I know I can hold a round together."

-- Keith Niebuhr can be reached at 860-7337.

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