It has been a fast summer. But serious Polk County golfers have been in full swing well before the season in preparation for the 2023 FHSAA golf season.
That season is very much in play at the moment, and some of Polk County’s best teams are back: McKeel won the county championship last season, while Lakeland Christian, Lakeland, All Saints and Lake Wales rounded out the top five.
Individuals were instrumental in the success of these teams at counties and well past the most relevant rounds.
Here are some of Polk County’s top girls golfers heading into the 2023 season.
Darby Hancock (Kathleen, Junior)
Hancock last year (2023) was The Ledger’s Girls Golfer of the Year. She won districts, finished third at regionals and finished seventh at state. Hancock’s scoring average was 35.2 on 9-holes and 74 on 18-holes. Her best skill right now is her short game.
She has improved her attitude on the course over the years. And this year, her goal is to get back to state for four years in a row. She looks forward to having fun, making memories and knowing she did her best every time I’m out on the course.
Emile Morin (Lakeland Christian, senior)
Morin last year (2022) won the Polk County Championship, placed third in her division at the Hawkins Crutchfield tournament, was district runner-up and qualified for the state tournament. Her scoring average was 35.2 for 9 holes and 75.8 for 18 holes. Her skill is being able to hit the fairways and greens in regulation, which allows for many birdie putts in a round as well as being able to get up and down a high percentage of the time.
She has gotten better at managing over the years and not letting bad holes change the course of her round. She has really focused on enjoying the game and not letting a bad hole during the round affect how she can play. Her goals this year are to qualify for the state tournament again, defend her county title as well as become the best player in the county. She is most looking forward to a fun and competitive senior season full of golf with all her teammates and friends around the county.
Ava Bustos (McKeel, junior)
Have played in many tournaments in the last year, Bustos won five out of five USKIDS Spacecoast Tournaments and became the 2023 USKIDS Spacecoast Spring Tour Champion. In addition, she qualified for the Teen World Championship with two rounds of 77. At Worlds, she shot 85, 83 and 77.
Over the past year her putting has improved dramatically and she has worked hard to lower her score. She has already achieved her goal of competing in Teen Worlds. This year as a junior, she is most looking forward to playing with McKeel in an effort to improve as a team. Individually, she is looking to place higher than 25th at states, which is what she placed last year. Bustos averaged 38.2 9 holes and 82.2 for 18 holes last year.
Caroline DeKalb (McKeel, sophomore)
DeKalb last year was 11th at county, third at districts, 15th at regionals and 46th at states. Her skills are great around the greens, she is a very solid ball striker and a great teammate and leader. She needs to get better at spacing off the tee, putting and having the confidence for every shot or putt. She wants to be part of a team, support each other to make the team better overall and achieve a top 10 finish at states as a sophomore.
Georgia Spence (McKeel, eighth grade)
In 2022, Spence was ninth in the county, sixth in the district, 16th in the regionals and 66th in the states. Her skills are being able to read the greens well, she is a good wedge player and she has a team first mentality. She needs to get better at realizing her ability to hit the shots she wants to hit and distance herself with drivers, irons, hybrids and woods. Her goals are to improve her overall game, be a good teammate and make it to states.
Hannah Castillo (Frostproof, eighth grade)
Last year she tied for fifth (76) at county, tied for fourth at the Hawkins Invitational, had a 74 to win the low medalist at districts, shot a 76 at regionals and last year worked on improving her short. game. In the next year, she looks forward to improving her game daily in order to advance to state.
This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Polk County girls golfers ready for 2023