By Kyle LoJacono
Last year Steinbrenner High girls golfers reached the regional tournament as a team and the Warriors have higher aspirations for the second season.
“We came in third in the district tournament last year, which sent us to the playoffs,” said second-year Steinbrenner coach Mark Mann. “This year I think a district title is within reason. I’m not predicting we will win districts, but that’s a realistic goal for us.
“We have five returning players and five new freshmen who will get to learn from the older players,” Mann continued. “We have a good mix of talented and experienced players and younger players willing to listen and learn the game. I feel very good about what we can do this year.”
Mann coached girls golf at Sickles High before coming to Steinbrenner. Four players from the Gryphons team came with Mann to the new school when it opened. One of those players is Sara Bair, a junior, who has loftier goals for the season.
“I want to make states as a team this year,” said Bair. “I want to get to states to show people Steinbrenner golf is one of the best programs in Florida.”
One Warrior familiar with the state tournament is Alex Milan, a senior who also played at Sickles, who has made the event as an individual the last two years. In 2008 she finished ninth in the Class 2A tournament and took eighth place in 1A last year.
“This year I want the whole team to get to states to see what it’s like,” Alex said. “For myself I want to take that next step and win a state championship. It’s my last chance to do it and I’d love to win the first state title for the school.”
Alex has been playing competitive tournaments around the southeastern United States during the summer to get better.
Alex is also one of Steinbrenner’s top students. She has a 5.92 weighted grade point average, the second highest at the school. She has narrowed her choices of schools to the University of Central Florida, Florida State University and Wake Forest University. Alex plans to play golf while studying businesses and minoring in Spanish.
Alex is not the only Milan playing for the Warriors this year. Her younger sister Andi, a freshman, joined the squad this season.
“I picked it up from my sister,” Andi said. “I saw how much fun the team had last year and wanted to give it a try. I’ve watched her play for so long and I wanted to do something with her.”
Andi did not play the game much before this summer. She said her best sport is softball and plays first base and is a pitcher.
Another player who has improved her game during the summer is Marlena Gumpher, a sophomore. She started playing golf last year.
“I took lessons during the summer (at Heritage Harbor Golf and Country Club) and I’ve taken camps so I could work on my game the whole day,” Gumpher said. “Plus it’s just a good time to come out and practice with the team. We have great chemistry together and all really like each other. Now we have more players and it’s like that good chemistry is just spread around more.”
The Warriors play their home matches at Heritage Harbor in Lutz. They won their first match 167-205 against Freedom High Aug. 31, setting a new program record for lowest score. The squad followed that with a 165-167 loss to Plant Sept. 2.
Steinbrenner has started the season off 1-1 and the players are happy to have Mann running the show.
“When I knew I was coming here last year I was like I don’t want to play golf unless he comes with us,” Bair said. “He’s a great coach. He knows how to make us better and also how to tell us so we listen.”
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