Fielding perhaps their deepest and most talented team in more than two decades, the St. Cloud Boys’ Golf Team moved to within one round of a berth in the FHSAA State Championships by winning the Class 3A, District 9 Championships.

Led by a pair of 73s by Austin Price and Gunner Green, the Bulldogs had four golfers break 80 on the 6,800-yard, Par 72 Royal St. Cloud Golf Course to post a team score of 12-over 300. That total was good enough to edge co-favorite Lake Nona (306) by six shots and will send St. Cloud into next week’s Region 3 Championship at the Legends Golf Course at Lake Orange.

“Our scores this summer and during the regular season were very similar to Lake Nona’s, so I would not characterize the team result as an upset,” St. Cloud Jim Endicott said. “But there was no question we needed four very solid rounds of golf to win and we certainly got that. To us, this is just one step towards our ultimate goal and that is to get to the state championship tournament.”

The Bulldogs path will not be an easy one.

Only the top three teams at each of the four regional tournaments qualify for the state championships and Region 3 is loaded with state powers including Windermere, Dr. Phillips, Vero Beach, South Fork and Lake Nona.

St. Cloud will look to advance to the state championship for the first time in more than two decades; something that Endicott believes is achievable. “It’s going to be a terrific challenge,” Endicott said. “My gut feeling is that we will need to shoot four scores that average 75 or less to get there but that is something we are definitely capable of doing it.”

Price and Green ended up tying for second place in the district meet, one-shot behind Lake Nona medalist Will Browning (72). The Bulldogs also got a 75 from Alexander Owen and a 79 from Eric Hernandez. Owen’s score was good for a solo fourth place finish; while Hernandez tied Lake Nona’s and Andrew Wexler for seventh.

In addition to St. Cloud, Lake Nona and Timber Creek (342) also advanced to next week’s regionals as a team. East River (392) finished fourth overall and Harmony (399) was fifth. The top three golfers from teams that did not qualify for regionals also advanced as individuals. Two of those players came from Osceola County, as Tohopekaliga golfers Eric Roebrick (80) and Jonathan Bonilla (87) finished in the first and third positions for the at-large spots; while East River’s Ethan Weber also advanced with a score of 10-over 82.

St. Cloud Girls Golf

In the Girls’ 3A, District 9 meet, Lake Nona captured the team title with a score of 310 – bettering St. Cloud (321) by 11 strokes and third-place Harmony (352) was 42 shots back. As top-three finishers, both St. Cloud and Harmony advance to regionals as a team.

“As with the boys tournament, we knew we would have to be at our best to top Lake Nona,” Endicott said. “We didn’t quite get there but again we had some great efforts.”

The big story at girls’ district tournament was St. Cloud senior Morgan Beaulieu who captured medalist honors with a one-under par 71. Beaulieu, who won her fourth consecutive Orange Belt Conference title last week, is a two-time state qualifier and will be among the favorites to capture a regional championship next week at Cleveland Heights Golf Course in Lakeland.

Beaulieu posted three birdies and two bogies in her round, but had to hold off East River’s Ann Burel for the title. On the 18th hole, Burel lipped out a birdie putt but Beaulieu still had to hole out a 10-foot par putt to avoid a tie.

“I thought I played really well today,” Beaulieu said of her win. “I went out and played my game and didn’t let anything bother me. I hit two poor first putts on two of the par threes that cost me bogeys, but other than that it was a pretty stress free round.”

Lake Nona’s depth was the difference in the team race as three Lion golfers – led by Samatha Chao’s one-over par 73 – posted scores in the 70s. With top four golfers from Harmony and East River posted scores, the two schools were tied for the third and final spot to advance to regionals. But Longhorns’ Arayana Persaud—playing out of the number five spot — posted a 91, which replaced the Longhorns’ number four score of 97 by Kelsey Whaley and moved the Longhorns up to third place and advanced them to regionals. Stephanie Gaebel (82), Jordan Pigeon (83) and Norah Baker (96) also posted counting scores for the Longhorns.

Endicott says advancing past regionals will be challenge for the girls. “Once you get to this stage, all the teams are pretty good. Just as the boys’ team will have their hands full at the Legends, the girls’ team will face a tough region. Lakeland and Viera are just a few of the outstanding teams that will be there,” Endicott said. “Obviously we have high hopes that Morgan will advance regardless, but as a team we are advancing to regionals and will give it our best shot.”