PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Palm Harbor University's Jason Elliott emerges from a tight pack in a county with much talent.
By LAURA LEE
Published November 25, 2003
At the beginning of the season, Jason Elliott made a prediction.
"I think it will be close, even all year," said Elliott, a senior at Palm Harbor University. He was right. This past season was extremely balanced. The top five Pinellas County Athletic Conference teams were separated by three matches. Three teams tied for third with three losses apiece.
It was just as close on an individual level. No one can claim complete dominance of the season. Several players had their own special moments in each major tournament. Even in the postseason, there was a different medalist and varying performances each week.
The top players' averages were almost identical, separated by mere decimals. Then it came down to one-on-one match-ups and who outplayed whom.
Elliott, 18, inches out in front of a very close race for Times Pinellas County player of the year. His win at the St. Petersburg Invitational, an 18-hole tournament featuring all public schools in the county where he was the only player to shoot under par, gave him the edge. Shooting under par at the district tournament helped even more. Elliott was the top county golfer of the week twice. As the only senior on a team of sophomores and freshmen, Elliott said he tried to share his experience with his fellow Hurricanes, who finished second in the PCAC and advanced to the Class 2A region tournament.
"Toward the end of the season they were playing really well," Elliott said. "I felt like I was doing my job in helping them."
His overall average was one of the lowest in the county, just over par at 36.3. He shot one 44, the only time he was more than two strokes over par, which drove up the average.
His best round was at the opener against East Lake at East Lake Woodlands where he shot bogey-free 33.
Largo's top player, Adam Messer, who finished with the lowest average in the PCAC, said Elliott was the one golfer he would have chosen to be paired with in the postseason.
"He's a good player," Messer said. "He's always been a player."
Elliott never achieved his goal of qualifying for the state tournament again. This season, just like last, he was stopped one step short at region. This year's region tournament was one of his worst days of the season. He shot 83, his highest score in eight months.
"I was kind of disappointed I didn't play good and I didn't get to go to states," Elliott said. "But I knew I had the rest of the junior tournaments to play."
This week he continues his junior season in Orlando, for one of the last major tournaments of the year, the Polo Golf Junior Classic. He soon expects to accept a partial scholarship to play at the University of North Florida.
Coach of the year
Steve Hoff knew he had a good team at the start of the season. Seminole might not have claimed individual accolades, but their depth made them strong. Hoff led the Warhawks to a PCAC title with a 14-1 record. After finishing third in districts, the team won the region tournament, earning individual champion and runner-up honors and a trip to state.