After a disappointing end to last season, Windermere golf continues to dominate in a year of redemption for the Wolverines.
Out on the links at The Legends golf course at Orange Lake Resort in Kissimmee, the Windermere golf team is doing what it has done all season — win with authority.
It’s Wednesday, Sept. 23, and the annual Quad Match, but things are different than last year’s tournament. Olympia and Dr. Phillips are competing, but West Orange High is absent after the school was temporarily shut down because of positive cases of COVID-19.
The weather is perfect, and throughout the long, 18-hole afternoon, Windermere handles the job it sought out to do — beating second-place Dr. Phillips by 13 strokes, thanks in part to Caden Burr and Louis Giovacchini’s low-scoring round of 65. These kind of results — which have become a norm at the school — are exactly what head coach Eric Bacon was hoping to see from a team as talented as his.
“Even though we’re young, we’re a veteran team — we have four coming back from the state tournament team, so I know what those guys can do,” Bacon said. “We have a sophomore who worked hard over the year and is starting to play with us, and we have a freshman, and he is playing really well.”
The win pushed Windermere to 7-0, but more importantly, it continued what has become a year of redemption for the Wolverines following a disappointing end to last season.
A CHIP ON THEIR SHOULDERS
When Windermere went into the FHSAA 3A state finals at El Campeon — Mission Inn Resort and Club last October, the Wolverines had big expectations.
Despite the school only being established in 2017, the Wolverines already had become a power in the boys golf game, and they were ready to bring home that first state title. It never happened. Instead, the Wolverines shot an abysmal 314 as a team on Day One — one of their worst outings of the year.
“It was a little bit of a downer, because the seniors didn’t really get a chance to win a championship — they had to leave before we won a championship, which is the situation I’m in this year,” senior Louis Giovacchini said.
The Wolverines rallied the following day — shooting a tournament-best 286 — but it still wasn’t enough to get them into the top three. Instead, the Wolverines finished 18 strokes behind Chiles to finish in fourth.
Having a great season implode in the opening round of the state championship didn’t sit well with anyone in the program, especially Bacon.
“We should have won it last year, and they all know it,” Bacon said. “We wanted to play this season because we wanted to get back to state as quickly as possible.”
SHORT SEASON, NEW CHALLENGES
After Windermere’s season ended, the only thing many on the team could think about was getting back to the links and correcting course.
They knew expectations were high — they had set those themselves — but what they didn’t know was that a global pandemic would change the 2020 season.
Luckily for golfers around the state, the game was really the only sport allowed to continue throughout the summer months. And it worked for golfers such as Giovacchini, who played in several tournaments at a discounted rate.
While Giovacchini and others played throughout the summer, as the high school season approached, Bacon still was waiting to hear from FHSAA and Orange County.
“Not getting to see them and work with them as a team was difficult, but I knew they were playing golf — there are junior golf events all over the place,” Bacon said. “I knew they were playing, but just not as a team, so not being able to see them and being able to talk to them on the course (was difficult).”
Once the specifics came, everything was a whirlwind, Bacon said. On multiple occasions, he had to trash his schedule and start over because of tournament cancellations.
“We didn’t know at first if we were going to play or not,” junior Juan Echeverri said. “We didn’t start until the start of September, and usually that’s kind of halfway through the season.”
As of Saturday’s Winter Park Invitational tournament, the Wolverines are already at the halfway mark of the season. For Giovacchini — and Echeverri — the Wolverines are missing out on valuable team-bonding time and other things they’d normally get to do during a regular season.
There is a silver lining shining brightly at the end of the season in the state championship, and there are hopes to remove the collective chip from the Wolverines’ shoulders.
“It would be sort of a relief, because I feel like we’ve been able to (win) the past two years, but we just haven’t capitalized,” Echeverri said. “I feel like this year, we have an opportunity with some good players.”
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