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Cougars enter 2000 with lots of depth

By RODNEY PAGE

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 7, 2000


Countryside coach Greg Bryant has a problem, but don't expect his peers to be too sympathetic. Poor coach Bryant has too many good golfers, which makes it difficult to decide which six he'll allow to play in tournaments.

At a recent practice, his No. 8 and 9 golfers shot a 38 for nine holes. His top four players are capable of breaking par and usually do.

What is a coach to do?

"This is really the most solid team I've ever had," said Bryant, who has guided the Cougars to four state tournaments in the past five years. "From top to bottom, we've got some really good players. The toughest thing is deciding who to play in tournaments. How do you tell a guy who shoots 38-39 in practice that he can't play in a tournament?"

With talent from top to bottom, and with players pushing each other every day in practice, it's easy to see why Countryside not only has its sights set on another trip to the state tournament, but on a state title.

Leading the way for the Cougars is senior David Cosper, a four-year player who has played in every match since his freshman year. This summer, he worked extra hard on his game.

He began taking lessons from Michael Koulianos, a former Tarpon Springs golfer who works at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton.

Cosper's scores have gone down, and a week ago, he won the Sam Parks Junior Invitational. Cosper enters the high school season at his peak.

"I've been working with Michael for about a month and a half, and it's really helped," Cosper said. "We've been working on course management and also some tweaks in my swing and the short game. I'm playing really well right now. Hopefully that will continue."

It helps to have teammates who push him in practice. Jimmy Fitzpatrick, Chris Ford and Brett Harris played for the Cougars last season and can shoot low rounds on any given day.

"Jimmy's playing extremely well right now," Cosper said. "It seems like everyone's starting to peak. I think we have a chance to be a better team than the last couple of years because we're more experienced.

"My goal is to win districts, have the lowest PCAC scoring average and try to win states. As a team, who knows, we could go pretty far."

With the addition of a regional tournament this year, the Cougars are almost a lock to advance past districts. The top four teams at districts advance to regionals.

And then the top two teams at regionals advance to state, which is much easier than the old winner-take-all district format. During the regular season, Bryant will tinker with his lineup to get his golfers as much experience as possible. He knows that in a county where some schools struggle to get five golfers, he has an embarrasment of riches.

"We've got players that could start for most schools but we can't get them into matches," Bryant said. "There's a lot of talent here, we'll just have to see how far we'll go."

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