Naples High's Chad Tracy, left, and James Tureskis engage in a fist bump prior to the start of Wednesday's CCAC boys golf championship at Club Pelican Bay. GREGG HARDY/CSI
First-year Naples High coach Don Tracy was doing a brief interview shortly after the third group teed off during the Collier County Athletic Conference boys golf championship on Wednesday at Club Pelican Bay.
Early in the interview, someone on the Naples side interjected to let Tracy know that his junior standout, James Tureskis, chipped in for eagle on the par-5 second hole.
The rout was on.
The Golden Eagles cruised to a 19-shot victory over reigning CCAC and Class 3A state champ Gulf Coast, which has several members of last year’s core group back, plus a couple of talented additions.
How good was Naples on Wednesday? Jack Irons, a key contributor as a freshman on Gulf Coast’s state title team last year, shot 76 and tied for fifth place as fellow Golden Eagles Tureskis (71), freshman Sam Kodak (73) and senior Chad Tracy (73) swept the top three spots.
Gulf Coast junior Ryan Hart broke up Naples’ string of top finishers with a 75 to finish fourth while his Sharks teammate, Remi Chartier, tied for fifth with Irons. Chartier dusted last year’s CCAC field en route to a five-shot victory at Valencia Golf & Country Club.
Tureskis, who finished third at last year’s Class 2A state championship (just two shots behind the winner), shot a 67 during the Golden Eagles’ victory earlier this season over an ultra-competitive Lakewood Ranch field.
“Jokingly he said it could’ve been a 65 or better because he missed some 10-footers,” Coach Tracy recalled Tureskis’ performance at Lakewood Ranch, where Naples collectively posted a score of 7-under par.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence, and we’ve just got to hope that holds on. … We gotta keep him going for one more month.”
Of course, Coach Tracy was referring to the postseason, which begins with district tournament action next week. Making a state championship run certainly looks to be on the table for the Golden Eagles, who finished eighth in last year’s 2A field.
Just which five golfers will be on Naples’ postseason roster is something coach Tracy will have to figure out. He said all seven of his golfers — his son, Chad, included — are making the task of deciding who plays in the postseason highly challenging.
Senior Will Ermatinger was the fifth member of the Golden Eagles’ competitive quintet Wednesday; he shot 78 and finished seventh. Jacob Akins, another Naples senior, shot a 69 at Stoneybrook Golf Club in Estero earlier this season, and junior John Wolner is also in the discussion to make Naples’ postseason roster.
“I literally have seven players who all play really well,” said Coach Tracy, whose team has a couple other wins in 18-hole events this season. “You’ve got to go by who’s playing well and who’s not playing well — not who played well three weeks ago (but) who’s playing well now.
“One through five and one through seven, there’s like one to two strokes difference.”
It’s a friendly intra-squad competition that the Golden Eagles are having.
“The team is competitive with each other,” Coach Tracy said, “but they’re also very helpful with each other, trying to always improve everyone else’s game. We’ve been fortunate that way.”
Coach Tracy’s biggest concern right now?
“We could’ve peaked a little bit too early. We’ll see,” he said.
Last year, Gulf Coast flexed its muscle at the CCACs, beating Naples by 12 shots en route to claiming Collier County’s first boys state championship.
Though disappointed by Wednesday’s results, Sharks coach Kim Benedict said it wasn’t the end of the world for her boys.
“We didn’t play well and we know we are a better team than what we showed today,” said Benedict, who lost a couple of key contributors from last year’s state title squad but added a couple of talented out-of-state transfers. “Naples is great and we wish them a lot of luck in bringing a 2A state title back to Collier County. For us, we’ll focus on our good play of late and the tournaments we’ve won, and learn what we can from today, then forget about it and move forward.
“Golf season is all about peaking at the right time and building momentum, so we’ll continue to do that and then hope we play solidly at regionals so we can hopefully make a run at states.”
Earlier this season, Benedict forecasted tough sledding for her team within Collier County. Besides Naples, she touted Class 1A Community School’s squad as one of the county’s best.
“We’re going to have a tough time winning the county,” Benedict said a few weeks ago. “As much as states is out there, (my players) also want to beat their competition here in Collier County.”
Junior Mason Messina (79, eighth place) and sophomore Jordan Barker (82, 10th) rounded out Gulf Coast’s scoring Wednesday. Barker, who moved to Naples from Pennsylvania, is one of two new Sharks this season along with Jack Wehle, a junior from Massachusetts.
It was only two years ago when Barron Collier’s boys ruled Collier County with their win at the CCACs. The Cougars finished a distant third Wednesday — 61 shots behind Naples.
Coach David White is watching his young stable of Cougars — they have six freshmen — try to mold themselves back into a potential county power within a year or two. Sophomore Ethan Bayl and freshman Colin Laughrey both shot 88s Wednesday — four shots behind Barron’s top scorer, senior Jack “JT” Roseman, who posted an 84. Senior Landon Livreri carded a 96 to round out the Cougars’ scoring.
“Next year and years to come look very, very bright,” said White, who isn’t quite ready to concede anything as the 2018 postseason approaches.
“We haven’t all put it together at one time, which we’re hoping to do in the next couple of rounds here,” White said. “The guys are definitely capable.”
While a state tournament bid seems unlikely at best, White said some of his guys can make it to states for the individual competition.
“I think JT can certainly make it,” White said. “I think Landon has a chance; he can get things going. He’s a streaky player. Also Ethan, very streaky as well.”
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