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Familiarity helps Ridgewood crush its competition

The Rams take the conference title by 26 strokes over its nearest rival.

JAMAL THALJI
Published October 15, 2003

HUDSON - Homefield advantage became homefield domination for Ridgewood during Tuesday's Sunshine Athletic Conference championship.

The Rams easily won the title, whipping the field at its home course, The Links, by 26 strokes over runner-up Zephyrhills and 33 strokes over defending champion Mitchell.

The conference championship is decided by combining regular-season results with tournament play.

But for the first time in several years, three teams entered the tournament tied in the regular-season standings at 7-1. That made Tuesday's tournament a winner-take-all affair. And the Rams took it all.

"That's a strong number, 306," Ridgewood coach Gary Anders said.

"(Tuesday), to play well and to win it, that's really satisfying."

Wesley Chapel sophomore Cameron Knight won the individual title despite a two-stroke penalty (for creating debris during practice swings) that forced him into a sudden death playoff with Ridgewood's Phillip Marina.

Knight, whose 72 tied Marina for the day's best score, won the playoff with his fourth birdie of the day and second at No. 1, lifting his ball out of a bunker and onto the fringe then sinking a 15-foot putt.

"I had a solid day," Knight said. "I missed a couple of putts, but I played well."

It was the kind of day Zephyrhills coach Bob Hatfield hoped for in his last conference meet. The Bulldogs coach, who will retire after nearly two decades in the sport, said he was happy to see his team finish second and happy to see a great day of golf.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic," said Hatfield, who was presented with a plaque by his team before the tournament. "I was thrilled for the Ridgewood team to post a quality score like that because they put up a number (Tuesday) that can take them out of districts and into regions.

"I didn't think we'd be that close. I thought at the beginning of the season, we were a fourth- or fifth-place team. So to finish the season second speaks well of our boys."

Marina lost the playoff but led his team to the title, shooting a 36 on the front and back nine to finish with a team-low 72. Mike Minichino shot 73. Justin Schlau had a 75 and Corey Ray an 86 for a season-low 306.

Marina was the runner-up, Minichino third and Schlau fourth overall as the three Rams earned all-SAC honors with Knight.

Mitchell's Cole Cisbani shot 76 to finish fifth overall, and Zephyrhills' Jeff Zullo shot 79 to finish sixth.

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