By: J. Daniel Pearson
Royal St. Cloud Golf Club was the scene of some Monday golf drama, as Celebration’s Ethan Badilla took the boys’ Orange Belt Conference (OBC) championship on Monday — edging out St. Cloud’s Espn Pool in a two-hole playoff. The team title was equally close, as Celebration needed to go to the counting score from their fourth golfer to pull away from St. Cloud for the team title.
“Really proud of my teammates,” Badilla said of his team’s first OBC team title since 2018 and just their fourth in school history. “We set several goals this season and winning the OBC championship was the first. Now we need to get a good week of practice in and get ready for districts.”
Badilla opened with a three-over 39 on the Par 72, 6,607-yard Royal St. Cloud Golf Club, but caught fire on the back nine. He carded pars on the first three holes on the back before sticking his second shot on the 505-yard Par 5, 13th hole to within two feet. He tapped in for eagle and finished with five straight pars for a one-over 73. “Given the amount of wind and my slow start, I was extremely pleased with the round,” Badilla said. “I probably could have putted a little better, but again the conditions were tough.”
Meanwhile, Pool – playing in a group in front of Badilla – had four birdies in his round and could have won the individual title outright, but his fifth bogey of the round – on the Par 5, 16th – dropped him back to one-over 73 to force a playoff.
For as solid as both Pool and Badilla played in the round, neither played particulary well in the playoff. On the first playoff hole, Badillo found the fairway but came up short on his second shot; while Pool slapped his tee shot all the way into the number 9 fairway and also sent his second shot short of the green. Pool, a few inches behind Badillo, sent his chip 12-foot past the hole; while Pool sent his pitch 11’ long. Both missed their par putts.
On the second playoff hole, Badillo barely cleared a hazard area in the right rough; while Pool found the fairway. Badillo sent his second shot over the green on the right side; while Pool chunked his second shot and came up 20 yards short of the green. Both players chipped on and missed their par putts; but Pool then missed a three-footer for a double bogey and Badillo tapped in to win the playoff with a bogey.
“Not going to lie, it was a case of the nerves in the playoffs,” Badilla added.
With top three scores posted for both the Bulldogs and Storm, Celebration was holding a narrow 221-222 lead over the four-time defending champion Bulldogs. But the Storm’s number four counter, George Aguilera, shot a solid 78 while St. Cloud number four Mohammad Elkafir could only manage an 88 as the Storm won the team title by 11 shots, 299-301. Harmony (358) was third; and Gateway (395) was a distant fourth.
In addition to medalist Badilla and seventh place Aguilera, Storm teammates Braden Plaisted (74) and Jeremiah Bianchi (74) joined the two on the OBC All-County team. Pool and teammates Alexander Owen (74) and sophomore Ethan Parish (75) also earned All-Conference; while Harmony junior Cesar Gandia (81) rounded out the eight-member all-county team.
The girls took center stage on Tuesday and as expected, St. Cloud (325) easily cruised to their seventh consecutive OBC title, besting Harmony (409) and Celebration (466).
About the only drama in the girls’ tournament was which one of St. Cloud’s top four golfers would claim the individual crown. In the end, Cayden Challacombe would birdie her final hole to tie freshman Maddie Burda for the low round of the day and force a playoff for medalist honors.
On the first extra hole, Challacombe birdied to prevail. For her round, Challacombe had 10 pars, two birdies and six bogeys over the 5,389, Par 72 course. Burda countered with eight pars, three birdies and seven bogeys. Sophomore Karolyna Adams, who took the Orange Belt Conference titles as a freshman, was third with 79.
Overall, the Bulldogs would dominate the All-County team as it swept the top four spots and took five of the eight OBC placements. Tess Sheive shot 94 to earn All-OBC honors with an official fourth place finish. Nadia Burda (103) gave St. Cloud five players on the All-OBC team with a tie for seventh. Those five players were joined on the All-OBC team by Harmony’s Alyssa Kane (95), Aryana Persaud (98), and Ally White (103). St. Cloud’s depth was even more apparent when the fact that Lady Bulldogs alternate players Olivia Siegel (88) and Sophia Rivera (100) shot scores low enough to make All-Conference but were not eligible for the award. Siegel’s 88 would have been good for fourth place.
District play begins next week.
On the boys’ side, Celebration returns to action next Monday (Oct. 23) in the Class 3A, District 7 Championships hosted by Ridge Community at Cleveland Heights Golf Club in Lakeland. Bartow and George Jenkins will join Celebration among the favorites. St. Cloud is the host school for the Class 3A, District 6 Championships at Royal St. Cloud on Tuesday (Oct. 24), where Harmony and Tohopekaliga will compete along with district powers Winter Park and Lake Nona. To advance to regionals teams must place in the top three in districts. Three at-large spots are also up for grabs among non-qualifying teams.
The St. Cloud and Harmony girls’ team will play in the Class 3A, District 7 on Monday at Royal St. Cloud.
OBC FINAL TEAM SCORES
- Boys: Celebration (299), St. Cloud (310), Harmony (358), Gateway (395), Tohopekaliga (526)
- Girls: St. Cloud (325), Harmony (409), Celebration (466)
OBC ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
- Ethan Badillo, Celebration, 73*
- Espn Pool, St. Cloud, 73
- Jeremiah Bianchi, Celebration, 74
- Braden Plaisted, Celebration 74
- Alexander Owen, St. Cloud, 74
- Ethan Parish, St. Cloud, 75
- George Aguilera, Celebration, 78
- Cesar Gandia, Harmony, 81
- Cayden Challacombe, St. Cloud, 76*
- Maddie Burda, St. Cloud, 76
- Karolyna Adams, St. Cloud, 79
- Olivia Siegel, St. Cloud 88**
- Tess Shieve, St. Cloud, 94
- Alyssa Kane, Harmony, 95
- Aryana Persaud, Harmony, 98
- Sophia Rivera, St. Cloud, 100**
- Ally White, Harmony, 103
- Nadia Burda, St. Cloud, 103
*Won individual championship in playoff
**Alternate Players not eligible for All Conference