By PATRICK CASEY
High school golf hasn’t gotten a lot of attention in the state over the years, but it is a growing sport that saw its first state competition for boys in 1927, and for girls in 1947.
The Florida High School Athletic Association now holds a yearly state golf tournament that features the crowning of two high school team state champions as well as two individuals in both girls and boys play.
High school golf currently has only two classes of competition, as many schools throughout the state do not compete in the sport. While the sport is growing in popularity, and the Florida locale offers many opportunities to play, it isn’t a sport that attracts a large gallery at regular season or district meets, often played on venues where the competitors are mixed in with the paying public.
However, Florida high school golf has some history in the Panhandle. In fact, the biggest Panhandle moment may well belong to DeFuniak Springs resident Shane Supple, who captured the 1989 individual golf state championship with a five-shot win at the Misty Creek Country Club in Sarasota.
Supple’s win is even more impressive when one considers that only one individual champion was crowned through 1993. Supple also beat David Duval who was playing for Jacksonville Episcopal High School at the time. That’s David Duval, as in 13 PGA wins on the Tour since he turned pro in 1993. That makes for a nice mention in Walton County lore, as Supple has the only boys’ individual title in the sport for Walton High, as well as the entire Panhandle since 1970. His two day total of 136 (68-68) is still tied for seventh best score in Florida state finals history.
The Walton High School golf team has made the state tournament as a group in both 2006 and 2007. That is quite an accomplishment for long-time golf coach Stan Bosenberg’s squad. Though they finished last out of 16 teams in 2006 and 13th in 2007, Walton was one of the few public schools to qualify in either classification.
A return trip in 2008 may continue the streak, as Paul McClure, who finished tied for fifth in the state tournament last season, will anchor what should be another strong golf unit for the Braves.
Only seven male golfers from the Tallahassee to Pensacola area can claim individual golf championships in the 81-year history of the sport. Supple is one. Eddie Johnson won the first boys golf title for the region in 1950 while playing for Tallahassee Leon. John Berry scored the region’s second title in 1952 when he also won while playing at Leon. Booker Moore became the third Leon golfer to earn the title when he won in 1955. Pensacola High got in on the action in 1956 and 1957 as Richard Dunlap captured the title back to back years. Keep in mind that prior to 1960, all titles were determined via match play, not stroke play.
Supple is one of only three golfers to win a boys state golf title under stroke play rules. Pensacola High’s Allen Miller won the 1966 golf title with a 135 (67-68) and Panama City Bay’s James Chancey won the 1970 title with a 134 (65-69), the lowest two-day total in boys state tournament history.
The state also awards team golf titles based on the combined scores of the lowest totals of four players from schools that make it through district and regional competition to the state tournament. The top two teams from each of the eight regions advance to the state tourney. The Panhandle has seen only six team titles handed out in the region with Pensacola High gobbling up titles in 1956, 1957 and 1966. Pensacola Escambia won the boys 1963 team title while Tallahassee Lincoln captured the 1977 crown. Gulf Breeze was the last area squad to capture a title, though they shared the state championship with Orlando Dr. Phillips in 1999.
Girls golf has had limited success in the Panhandle. Pensacola Escambia won four consecutive team titles from 1962-65 and is the only school in our region to ever claim a team girls title. Niceville has had some recent success, the Eagles finished as runner-ups in 2001 and 2004.
Individual girls titles have also been relatively scarce in the Panhandle. Brenda Trish won the first girls title for the Panhandle in 1961 while playing for Pensacola Escambia. Robin Cook captured consecutive titles for Pace High School in 1994 and 1995. Jennifer Pandolfi was the last to capture a title from this region as the Navarre student won a playoff to capture the Class A title in 2001. Haley Millsap, who played at Pace High School last year, just missed capturing the Class 2A title as she finished in second place, two strokes out of the lead in 2007.
High school golf is growing in popularity and it doesn’t hurt that it is a major money sport, whether it is on the pro tour or playing with the money group at the local country club. Local golfers have struggled to make their mark on a state level, but the opportunity for success is there. Shane Supple’s 1989 title is proof that public schools can produce champions, though perhaps rare, that deserve remembrance in the annals of local sports history.