NEW PORT RICHEY — Senior Jarrod Smith has been a member of the Cypress Creek golf team since the high school opened three years ago. A transfer from Wesley Chapel after his freshman season, Smith has been the Coyotes’ No. 1 golfer all three years.
The first two seasons were a bit lean. But when the team gathered for a few preseason practice rounds this year, Smith noticed a change. He was still the same golfer who could shoot around par in a nine-hole tournament. But his teammates had greatly improved.
So much, in fact, that they finished the regular season 17-0 (not including conference tournament) and are favorites to win the Class 2A, District 8 tournament on Monday at Huntington Hills Golf and Country Club in Lakeland.
“Definitely nobody saw this coming,” Smith said. “Our first year we were the worst team in (Pasco County). Last year we were still not very good. Obviously that has changed. We’ve all gotten better, especially Danny (Polce). I don’t think anybody improved more in our county than Danny.”
Sophomore Daniel Polce played on the team as a freshman, but it was his first year fully concentrating on golf. Before that, he spent his time playing baseball.
It was practically inevitable that Polce would gravitate to golf. His father, Tim, is a PGA teaching professional. When Polce committed himself to golf, he started working with his dad.
“He gets on me a lot and that’s good for me,” Polce said. “He’s always drilled fundamentals into me. I’m kind of lucky that way to have him at my disposal. I can call him whenever and he can walk me through what I’m having trouble with.
“I started swinging much better. I’ve been much better from tee to green.”
Polce’s best nine-hole score this season was 1-under 35. He’s basically hovered around par or just above all season. That’s at least a five-stroke improvement from last season.
Then there is freshman Joaquin Parrilla. New to the team, Parrilla is just over 5 feet tall and barely 100 pounds. But he has been playing golf since he was 8 years old. He can smack his drives down the middle and almost has the length of a senior.
Parrilla is usually reliable for a score of around 40 for nine holes. He’s used to the skeptical looks from playing partners, but that doesn’t last long.
“After the first or second tee shot that goes away,” Parrilla said. “I can almost drive it as far as everybody else. If I can get it within 100 yards then I can put it on the green.”
Junior Nathan Dube and senior Jordan Fleming round out the top five for the Coyotes. Senior Tyler Weber usually plays as the No. 6 golfer and sometimes breaks into the starting five.
Patrick Trimbach is in his first year as coach. He wasn’t sure what to expect when he gathered the team for their first practice, but he did understand his role.
“I was handed a gift,” Trimbach said. “I just put on the hat and watch them play.”
The Coyotes played in the Sunshine Athletic Conference tournament on Monday at Seven Springs Golf and Country Club. They finished with a team score of 384. It was their first 18-hole tournament this season, and the first time they played Seven Springs. Smith led the way with 85. Polce, who admitted he had a bad day, shot 96. Parrilla shot 100.
Now comes the district tournament. The Coyotes will have to play better this time around if they want to win their first district title. But the fact they went undefeated in the regular season after going 5-12 last season is cause for optimism.
“Our top three golfers are rock solid,” Trimbach said. “If we can get a good score at Nos. 4 or 5, then we’re a pretty good team.”