The Wesley Chapel Boys Golf Team visualized its shot — as golfers do — and took full swing at it. In the end, the team’s shot at the state tournament landed perfectly.
The Wildcats knew what it would take to get to the two-day Class 2A State Tournament that started Nov. 7 in Howey-in-the-Hills. And, they took full advantage of a young, talented roster and secured a spot through tough play and arguably the best season in program history.
They finished 11-1, including a Sunshine Athletic Conference Championship and a Class 2A-District 9 title, and capped off the season with a 10th place finish at states, with sophomore Carter Boynton finishing 10th overall individually thanks to a 151 (7 over par).
“The season was tough, but down the stretch at conference, at districts and regionals, we started having fun, as a team, as players,” said Boynton, who shot a 76 and 75, respectively, at the state tournament. “Once we got to states, and since it was our goal all season, we didn’t really have any expectations (on how’d we finish). We just wanted to get there and we did, and we had fun.
“The whole year,” he added, “we talked about making it to states and we finally did after working for it all season — it felt great. As a team, we’re friends and look to have fun on the course, which is why I think we’re so successful.”
Coming into the season, the Wildcats had lofty expectations and goals, which, of course, included making the program’s first state tournament appearance since 2011. Thanks to adding Boynton, a Minnesota transfer, and fellow sophomore Tien Do, a transfer from New York, it was mission accomplished.
“Sure, they work a lot and have swing coaches, but they play as a group of friends on a weekly basis,” coach Josh Raskopf said. “They just love golf and they’re just going to get better, and by next season, I expect they will be even better.”
Despite some great results, the players do expect to top their 2023 state tournament scores.
Do finished 31st with a two-day 159 total, while fellow sophomores Jacob Doonan (172) and Camden Battey (187) finished 71st and 93rd, respectively. The team’s lone senior, Michael Hale, who narrowly missed a trip to states in 2022, finished 86th with a 181.
But, as golfers do, they want their scores to be better.
“I take away (from our state tournament appearance) on how it went, how our team did and how our team is going to come back and try to take hardware,” Boynton said. “It’s the state tournament, so you’re a little nervous at first, but you try to stay focused and play your game.
“But (next year’s) goal is already there. We’re going back by just playing golf with friends.”
These golf buddies came together before the season and bonded, allowing them to put together a near-perfect season. Despite the Wildcats one loss — falling to nearby district rival Cypress Creek by two strokes — it missed coming in second at the regional tournament after a four-hole playoff. The team made the state tournament as an at-large bid due to its successful season.
“We had to stay focused all season because if we missed our shot at states with one of (the two) regional (winner spots), we knew our most clear path would be to win districts and have a great regular season,” Raskopf said. “We made sure we went out there every match and kept that hyperfocus through the whole season. It can be draining, but we knew that we were always going to put up competitive numbers.”
Raskopf already has big ambitions for next season. With four of the team’s top five golfers just sophomores, and now with state tournament experience, he expects those golfers just to get better.
And to continue to take their shots at the state tournament.
“Absolutely, the expectation next year is, realistically, in the top three or five,” Raskopf said. “The new expectation is making (states) for the next two years with this group of boys. (Making states) was always the question if we were really going to do it, but it’s not a question anymore. We know we have the talent and drive to get to the next level and break through.
“By their senior years, they’ll want to be holding the top spot that year, but, honestly, they want it next year.”
Additional State Qualifiers, Results
Jack Vanderschuur, Steinbrenner – 74, 77 – 151 (T-19th)
Alyssa Mixon, Sunlake – 72, 73 – 145 (T-4th)
Dannika Hines, Steinbrenner – 68, 77 – 145 (T-4th)
Fasauni Marshall, Freedom – 97, 96 – 193 (83rd)
Conor Whalen, Bishop McLaughlin
*(Class 1A state tournament results not available at time of publication).
Published November 15, 2023