One thing that has become all-too apparent about high school golf in Florida is that all fairways seemingly lead to South Florida.
Results of the recent state championships affirm it.
In November, South Florida had a dominating performance in the Florida High School Athletic Association tournament held at Mission Inn Resort & Club at Howey-In-The-Hills.
One school in particular – Plantation American Heritage of Broward County – left its mark and quite a few divots all over this mid-Florida event as its boys and girls swept the Class 2A titles.
The trophy case at American Heritage, a school well-known for its athletic success in all sports, is getting more and more crowded with trophies, particularly in golf.
Brandt Moser, coach of the Heritage boys’ team, notched his fourth boys’ state title and in the process earned induction into the state’s Hall of Fame. In 2017 he was named National Coach of the Year, and under his direction
American Heritage has produced more than 50 golfers to compete on the college level.
Despite all those accolades, Moser said, “This year was special.”
That’s because last year’s boys’ team, which had forced a tie in the state championships when Luke Clanton birdied the final hole, lost in the tiebreaker and Moser remembers: “We were all crying. After a while, I told the players to wrap it up and turn around and shake hands.”
They did just that but all this season they remembered that awful loss.
“That defeat was the motivation this season,” Moser said. “They went into this year’s state tournament ready to fight tooth and nail.”
And that’s exactly what they did.
This year also ended in tears – but tears of happiness rather than sorrow.
Clanton was once again at the forefront of the team by winning his third consecutive individual state championship, shooting 72-69–141 for the two rounds.
“That kid is something special,” Moser said. The four other Heritage players were Sohan Patel (T9, 78-78–156), Aiden Arce (T14, 79-80–159), Sebastian Sacristan (T23, 78-83–161) and Gabe Hegerstrom (T50, 81-88–169).
This winning moment was particularly special for Moser because he is all but certain that at age 61 this past season will be his final one as he will let someone else take over the boys’ head coaching position. Moser likey will remain involved, continuing as the school’s director of golf.
Moser, who readily admits he loves fishing with the same (or even greater) passion as golf, celebrated the state title by buying $200 of bait and getting on a boat for a well-earned celebration of the title and some respite from the pressure that comes with a state championship competition.
The fishing results definitely were not as successful as the golf tournament.
“The fish outsmarted me,” Moser said, laughing. “Didn’t catch hardly anything. They just came and stole my bait all day.”
The Heritage girls’ team was led by Kelly Shanahan (5th, 75-73–148). The girls were just as doggedly determined as the boys’ team and brought the title home on the strokes of Katherine Schaefer (T12, 80-77–157), Alessandra Tabora (T24, 85-78–163), sixth-grader Laura Monsalve (T46, 84-90–174) and Emma Parker (50th, 93-83–176).
After the first day of competition, the Heritage girls were looking up in the standings rather than down. They trailed by six strokes. That deficit ballooned to 11 early in the second round – then Heritage made its move amid rainy and windy conditions. They ended up beating runner-up Fernandina Beach by 14 strokes and third-place Broward County rival Archbishop McCarthy by 41.
The state title was the 10th for Heritage girls golf over the years.
Jointly coaching the team were Mike Carlin and Linda Sibio.
“No, it never gets old,” Carlin said. “By next year, we will be ready again. Every year is different. We will certainly try to do this again. It was fun.”
More South Florida results
Boys Columbus of Miami-Dade surprised a lot of schools by taking third, as Sebastian Kawas (T16, 74-77–151) led the Explorers. Adding to Columbus’ steady performance were Hans Risvaer (T19, 79-73-152), Andre Atrio (36th, 78-79–157), Chris Figueredo (T40, 80-79–159) and Max Fonseca (T52, 81-80–161).
Boca Raton of Palm Beach
finished tied for fourth in the
team standings, led by Alex
Heard (T10, 74-76–150).
Spanish River of Palm Beach grabbed a share of 13th place,
led by Matvey Golovanov
Girls St. Thomas Aquinas of Broward County finished in
5th place with Erin Marcellino
(83-74–157) sharing 20th individually.
Doral Academy was T15, led by Gabriela Gomez (T20, 78-79–157).
Boys Archbishop McCarthy finished fourth, led by Ryan Lopez (T14, 79-80–159) and Brett Moore (T21, 81-79–160).
American Heritage Delray Beach finished fifth, led by Jason Shwartz (4th, 71-77–148). Yash Patel finished fourth for the team, but posted a stunning 23-stroke improvement (96-73–169).
Belen Jesuit of Miami-Dade finished in seventh place, led by Sebastian Barcia (T23, 79-82–161).
Girls Archbishop McCarthy finished in third place, led by Eva Almaguer (8th, 79-75–154) and Rileigh Baker (T30, 86-82–168).
Cardinal Gibbons was fifth,
led by Kaylee Ehret (9th, 78-77–155).
Boys Benjamin School of Palm Beach was the highest-finishing South Florida school, taking fourth, led by Pavel Tsar (T13, 78-71–149) and Brooks Colton (T19, 76-76–152).
Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest took 11th, led by Sam Brown (T32, 76-80–156).
FAU School of Boca Raton finished 14th, led by Mateo Desmond (T32, 78-78–156).
Ransom Everglades finished 16th, led by Jackson Langer (T59, 89-75–164).
Florida Christian’s Nicholas Prieto (T5, 71-74—145) and Miami Country Day’s Matthew Yamin (T11, 73-75–148) competed unattached.
Girls St. Andrews of Palm Beach finished fourth, led by Amelie Alcantara (T3, 68-73–141) and Gabriella Albert (T15, 78-69–147).
The Benjamin School finished seventh and was led by individual state champion Andie Smith (69-69–138). During the November period, Smith signed with Duke University.
A six-time American Junior Golf Association winner, Smith won the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational Junior honoring Jim Bell and the 2019 South Florida Junior PGA Championship, among other titles.
FAU School took eighth, led by Kayla Bryant (T22, 76-72–148).