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Golf Preview: With Multiple Returners, McCarthy Girls Eye Repeat

Sharon BlockSFHSSports: Twitter | Facebook

Archbishop McCarthy girls’ golf team may be even better than last year’s Class 2A state champion.

The defending champion returns four starters and is already off to a strong start winning two tournaments and finishing fourth in the Antigua National High School Invitational at McCormick Ranch Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“It should be more obvious this season that all these girls worked their tail off from the 2015 state tournament to the end of this summer,” said Mavericks coach Carl Phillips.

“They played in all the great junior tournaments. They know what pressure is like. They are a year older and better than they were last year.

“Every year they get stronger and stronger; you can see the improvement. They know how to handle pressure. They’ve learned how to score better now and that’s the whole game.”

Phillips, a former golf pro, started the high school’s golf program 14 years ago.

In last year’s state tournament, Archbishop McCarthy came back from a 10-stroke deficit and won a one-hole playoff against longtime rival and defending state champion American Heritage Plantation.

“There is always pressure coming back as a state champion,” Phillips said. “These girls have played in big national tournaments and know how to play under pressure. We know being a state team we have a target on our backs.”

The Mavericks are the first girls’ team to win a state title in any sport at the private school.

Top returnees are senior and University of Memphis commit Julia Matzat, Christen Simons, Brooke Benedetto and Georgette Garcia. Other top golfers are Katya Barahona and Casey Sommer.

At the invitation-only Antigua tournament, the Mavericks totaled 310-314 (624) among a field of 39 teams from nine states and two countries. The team’s top finisher was Matzat, tying for sixth place with rounds of 73 and 77. Also in the Top 20 were freshman newcomer Natalia Jimenez (80-75) and Garcia (78-77).

“I know they belonged there,” Phillips said. “Everyone knows we are a top team in the state and country. The girls feel the same way, too.”

Phillips beefed up his team’s schedule this year in preparation for the state tournament.

“I wanted to try and get as hard a schedule as possible to see where we stand throughout the season and see how good we are,” Phillips said. “It builds your confidence and competitiveness going into the postseason.

“This is all good that we are doing well early in the season but the regular season is more of a stepping stone,” Phillips said. “We are playing all these invitationals to get us ready for the post-season and set us up to go back to states where hopefully we will be working on all cylinders.”

With eight seniors on the team, there is a special bond.

“They are all really good friends,” Phillips said. “They have known each other since they were 7 or 8 years old playing junior golf. The team camaraderie is unbelievable here.

“They know what they are working towards. We are taking it week by week, going from one invitational to another, working on more and seeing how we can improve and that’s all you can ask for.”

The 2A rivalry between Archbishop McCarthy and American Heritage will continue. It’s been compared to the Duke-North Carolina basketball rivalry because of the intensity and close proximity of the campuses.

At the Sept. 7 Lady Cougar Invitational in Naples, Archbishop McCarthy won by three strokes (303) over American Heritage (306).

American Heritage is one of the state’s top golf programs. Since 1999, the Patriots have qualified for the state tournament every year except one.

The program, headed by 22-year veteran coach Brandt Moser, has won eight state titles, six by the girls and two by the boys. The last time both teams won state crowns was 2014.

The Patriots are led by freshman Jillian Bourdage, three-time Carol Mann Award winner. The award is given to the girl golfer with the lowest average in the Junior Golf Association of Broward County summer tour.

Teammate Casey Weidenfeld, also a freshman, was low scorer at the Class 2A state meet with 148, one shot ahead of Bourdage.

Douglas, another contender, has four returnees off last year’s 3A team.

BOYS GOLF

State runner-up American Heritage still looks to be the top team to win a state title despite losing Ty Strafaci, the state 2A individual medalist. Florida State commit Alberto Martinez, Jonathan Cachon and Jude Kim return.

The Patriots opened the season winning the 18th annual Heritage Invitational at Lago Mar. Martinez earned medalist honors with a 2-over-par 74. Cachon and Kim tied for second with 75. The Patriots won with a 10-stroke lead over St. Thomas Aquinas, 304-314. Joe Lewis was the Raiders top finisher placing fourth with 77.

Pine Crest and North Broward Prep are top 1A teams. Pine Crest is led by senior Miles Castoro and sophomore Dominic Carrera. North Broward is led by Justin Shiao and Hunter Hoersch.

GIRLS TO WATCH
Brooke Benedetto, Archbishop McCarthy; Jillian Bourdage, American Heritage; Gabriela Ferre, Cypress Bay; Georgette Garcia, Archbishop McCarthy; Natalia Jimenez, American Heritage; Hannah Leiner, North Broward Prep; Julia Matzat, Archbishop McCarthy; Andrea Presilla, Cypress Bay; Christen Simons, Archbishop McCarthy; Casey Weidenfeld, American Heritage.

BOYS TO WATCH
Julius Boros, Cardinal Gibbons; Jonathan Cachon, American Heritage; Dominic Carrera, Pine Crest; Miles Castoro, Pine Crest; Leo Herrera, American Heritage; Hunter Hoersch, North Broward Prep; Jude Kim, American Heritage; Justin Lilly, Archbishop McCarthy; Alberto Martinez, American Heritage; Gabriel Porges, University School; Alec Quiroga, West Broward; Justin Shiao, North Broward Prep; Andres Torres, West Broward; Anthony Wells, Archbishop McCarthy; Carson Yates, Cardinal Gibbons.

DEFENDING STATE GIRLS CHAMPIONS
Class 3A: Lake Mary
Class 2A: Archbishop McCarthy
Class 1A: Lake Mary Prep

DEFENDING STATE BOYS CHAMPIONS
Class 3A: Lake Mary
Class 2A: Ponte Vedra
Class 1A: Lake Mary Prep

KEY DATES
Sept. 14, Morrison Golf Classic
Sept. 16, Ida Baker Invitational
Sept. 19, American Heritage at Douglas
Sept. 22-24, Lakewood Ranch Tournament
Sept. 29, Chamber Tournament at Jacaranda
Sept. 30-Oct. 1, Tournament of Champions, Davenport
Oct. 6-8, Honda Classic, PGA National
Oct. 10-12, District tournaments
Oct. 17-19, Region tournaments
Oct. 25-26, Class 3A State Meet, Howey-in-the-Hills
Oct. 28-29, Class 1A State Meet, Howey-in-the-Hills
Nov. 1-2, Class 2A State Meet, Howey-in-the-Hills

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