WESLEY CHAPEL — Donnie Gabrelcik has been in a slump.
For most of the season, Pasco County’s best boys golf team, Mitchell High, had seen arguably its best player not up to par. Averaging a 43 for nine holes, the lanky junior, who is also the reigning Sunshine Athletic Conference golfer of the year, has struggled most of the season.
“I had to just go out there and say, ‘I need to finish nine holes and get through it,’ and I wasn’t playing golf like I should have,” Gabrelcik said. “The rain had been such a pain to get through this year, but it’s part of the game, just like today. ... I had a lot of help from friends and family and teammates to help me get through this slump and it feels like I’m past it.”
At Monday’s SAC boys tourney, Gabrelcik once again battled the rain, but looked free and clear of the slump to shoot a 3-under-par 69 to lead the Mustangs to their third straight title.
Mitchell, which has won six of the past eight titles, shot a 295, 42 strokes better than second-place Wesley Chapel (337).
“We’ve got 12 golfers who average 43 or better,” Mustangs coach Rick Hyatt said. “That’s just for nine holes, but it took me five years to figure this out: I’ve got to get these guys prepared for 18-hole rounds, so I schedule five of them a year. We do have a lot of junior golf talent on the team, but those 18-hole tournaments midseason always pay off.”
Mitchell (12-0), which came in third at the 18-hole CCC Invite on Saturday, had four scores in the top 10, including Mike Spinger and Anthony Swinford both shooting 73 and Ben Wagner with an 80.
Gabrelcik was back to his normal self, carding five birdies, with a double bogey on No. 7 the only bump in the road. Starting at hole No. 11, Gabrelcik birdied 13, 14 and 18 on his front nine, and after grabbing birdies on Nos. 4 and 5, he was 5 under.
“The course was wet, yes, but it was still firm with not a lot of spin,” Gabrelcik said. “You didn’t want too much roll because there’s a lot of hazards behind the greens, but most shots stuck today.”
As for the rest of the field, the Wildcats had a good showing thanks to Zach Lemmens’ 78, while River Ridge was led by Mike Stewart’s 78 and Sunlake by Jake Roberts’ 80, as the Royal Knights and Seahawks tied for third (340). Gulf’s Ryan Gibson shot a 76, while Land O’ Lakes’ Lawrence Cai had a 79.
Despite Mitchell’s continued success, there’s still one team that has a better SAC record: the Mustangs’ female counterparts, who go for their 13th straight SAC title today.
“They keep us grounded with that many titles,” Hyatt said with a laugh. “It’s reminder to all our guy golfers that they have many more than us.”