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Coaches, players praise new post-season format


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 22, 2000

If there are a few more smiling faces at Monday's district golf matches, a few more pats on the back, a few more sighs of relief, it's because the district golf tournament isn't what it used to be.

It used to be a one-day, winner-take-all, you-better-bring-your-A-game tournament. Only the team winner and individual medalist, even if that golfer was on the winning team, advanced to the state tournament.

Pressure at its fullest.

But this season, for the first time, there will be a regional tournament prior to the state tournament. Instead of only a select few making it out of districts, now the top four teams and the top four individuals not on those four teams live to play another day.

Even if a team or individual has only his or her "B" game, it still might not be the end of the world.

"This gives everybody a fair chance," longtime Largo coach Bill Schroeder said. "It used to be the case that maybe a team that deserved it but just didn't show up that particular day was done. But now, there's another tournament."

Most other sports have long had a regional tournament, but golf was the last to follow suit. That was mostly due to course availability, something other sports don't have to worry about.

The format change came a year too late for East Lake. It made the state tournament in the spring of 1999, but in the fall of '99, with most of the team back, one bad day led to a loss to Countryside.

East Lake senior Brad Quiri was on that team, and he said the addition of a regional tournament is a welcome change.

"We could've used it last year," he said. "I think it's fair. You pretty much know now that the teams that deserve it get to move on."

Quiri could be a prime example of how the regional tournament helps an individual player. One of the top players in the county, Quiri has a nine-hole average near 37. But East Lake might not be one of the top four teams. Under the old format, he would have to shoot for medalist honors to advance to state. Now, even if the Eagles don't advance as a team, he almost will assuredly advance to regionals as one of the top four individuals.

"There's less pressure, but I still want to play as well as I can," Quiri said.

"I've been playing well all summer, and it's carried over to high school golf. I think I'm playing better as we get closer to the bigger tournaments."

At the regional tournament, the pressure will be turned up a notch, but it won't be as high as it used to be. The top two teams at the regionals as well as the top two individuals go to state. The top two individuals can be from the top two teams.

The change likely will help teams like Palm Harbor University, Largo or Seminole, schools that might not be able to take favorite Countryside in Class 2A, District 9 but could still advance.

In Class A, District 10, Dunedin might be the favorite, but deserving teams like Tarpon Springs, Clearwater Central Catholic, St. Petersburg Catholic and Shorecrest also might advance.

"They should have done this a while ago," Seminole coach Steve Hoff said. "It's the fairest way to do it."

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