Like he has for the past 12 months, Newsome High boys golfer Tyler Bakich shouldered a little extra weight Tuesday to go along with his clubs in the opening round of the Class 3A state tournament at Howey-in-the-Hills’ Mission Inn.
Just before leaving for last year’s state tournament, Bakich found out his mother, former LPGA player Colleen Walker, had gotten worse while dealing with aggressive cancer. With her very ill, the then-sophomore played inspired golf and finished in a tie for fourth place.
Walker died in December, and ever since Bakich said he’s played with a little extra behind every round. Tuesday, Bakich said it was no different as he dealt with windy conditions on the back nine, but he turned in a 3-under-par 69, just one stroke off the individual lead.
“I’m not really playing for myself, with what happened with my mom and the news I got before states last year,” Bakich said, “(This year) I want to give it my best shot so she’ll be proud of me up there. That’s the main thing I think about.
“I’m always playing to make her proud.”
Bakich, who trails Bradenton Lakewood Ranch (the boys team leaders) senior Ramsey Touchberry by a stroke, said his group finished a combined 7 under on the day and in facing Touchberry for the fourth time this season, he has come to expect a tough matchup.
“It’s fun, and we like the competition between us,” said Bakich, who won the district title this season and finished second at regionals. “I’ve probably faced him four or five times this year, and we’re friends — I don’t hate him for having that round today.”
On the girls side, Countryside’s Maddison Glennie turned in the day’s best round with a par 72, followed closely by a trio of golfers, including Freedom junior Terese Romeo at 1-over-par, 73.
Romeo, who finished tied for 11th last season, said she started well with a pair of birdies, but was hampered by the wind later in her round.
“In the beginning of the round, I got started with two nice birdies,” Romeo said. “But I tried not to let the wind affect me, stay inside myself, stay in the fairways, hit greens and things would work out for me.”
Romeo said although nerves are always a factor leading into a tournament, she is focusing on the fact that her second day at the tournament is just “one more round of golf.”
Steinbrenner’s girls are in fourth place as a team with Clair Becker (76, t7th) leading the Warriors to a total of 337, trailing team leader Viera by 12 strokes. Freedom is in 11th place, as Romeo leads the Patriots into Day 2. King’s Steffi Yo and Newsome’s Meghna Patel are both tied for 13th with 79.
Plant came in at 12th place after the opening round, led by freshmen Chris Kern (77, t22nd) and Robbie Eisch (81, t50th) in the boys team standings, while senior Todd Sessums (84) and sophomore Aaron Tobin (85) round out the Panthers scoring. Durant freshman Jacob Penny shot a 79 Tuesday and is in a tie for 39th place. The Freedom boys, led by a 6-over-par, 78 from senior Jimmy Jones, finished the day with a combined 341 in 14th place. Jones, was 2 under through the first nine holes before struggling on the back nine, while junior Liam Doherty and freshman Tyler Bray each shot 87.