Balanced Strength Prevails: Ponte Vedra Boys and Girls Teams Triumph in Jax Beach Varsity

Don’t write off the Ponte Vedra High boys golf team yet.

The Sharks, winners of six state championships in a row in two classifications, and eight overall, lost five senior starters from last year’s Class 2A state championship team and in three 18-hole tournaments so far this season, has two thirds and a fourth-place finish.

Beachside beat the Sharks by four shots in the St. Johns Country tournament last week at the Slammer & Squire, the second tournament in a row in which the Barracudas finished ahead of the Sharks in battles between schools named for predatory fish.

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But Ponte Vedra came out chomping on Saturday in the Jacksonville Beach Varsity Invitational and nipped Episcopal in the boys division on a scorecard match after both shot 11-over 295 at the Jacksonville Beach Golf Club.

With the Sharks girls team finishing second to Beachside by two shots, the overall team title went to Ponte Vedra by six shots over the Barracudas under the format that combines the best four scores from each of the boys and girls teams.

The Sharks boys used their customary depth, with Cooper Franklin shooting 72 and Cameron Reed and Easton Oliva logging 73s.

St. Johns Country Day golf coach Mindy Herrick goes over the tee shot at the par-5 13th hole of the Jacksonville Beach Golf Club with Addy Vogt during Saturday’s Jacksonville Beach Varsity Invitational.

“I saw a couple of guys show some good signs,” said Ponte Vedra coach Mickey Leapley. “We haven’t been finishing well but guys were making some late birdies and finishing strong.”

The rivalry will continue in late October at the Region 1-2A tournaments, once Ponte Vedra and Beachside qualify out of district play.

“Ponte Vedra is still the team to beat,” said Beachside boys coach Chris Haffley. “But our guys are hungry.”

The tournament, in its fourth season, crowned a combined boys and girls champion for the second year in a row. Defending champion Bolles, rebuilding on both the girls and boys teams, finished fourth. Episcopal was third overall, with the Eagles tying the Sharks for the boys title but losing on a scorecard match.

Bolles won the overall championship last year, finishing first in the boys tournament and second in the girls tournament. Ponte Vedra was second overall and Nease third.

Ryan Nicholson of Nease hits his tee shot at No. 1 of the Jacksonville Beach Golf Club during the fourth annual Jacksonville Beach Varsity Invitational.

Ryan Nicholson of Nease hits his tee shot at No. 1 of the Jacksonville Beach Golf Club during the fourth annual Jacksonville Beach Varsity Invitational.

The tournament is hosted by Providence.

Nolan Harper of Beachside and Henry Robards of Episcopal tied for first individually in the boys tournament at 3-under 68 but Harper won on a scorecard match with a birdie at the par-5 18th, with Robards taking a bogey after hitting his second shot into the water.

Harper shot 34-34 and birdied all three par-5 holes. Robards took a more adventurous approach, shooting 38 on the back nine (his front), then making birdie on five of his first seven holes on the front.

“Pretty steady,” Harper said of his day. “It was kind of boring.”

Robards nearly drove the green on three par-4 holes on the front and got up-and-down for three easy birdies.

After his 2-over back nine, he said he welcomed a delay on the first tee.

“We had about a 20-minute wait but it was just what I needed to calm down,” he said.

Robards birdied No. 1 on a 25-foot putt and went on to shoot 5-under on that side.

Ryan Nicholson of Nease (70) finished third and Connor Hess of Episcopal and Carter Abittabilo of Tocoi Creek (71) tied for fourth.

Nancy Cox of Ponte Vedra, the Times-Union’s 2022 girls player of the year, won the girls individual title with a 2-under 69 that included back-to-back birdies at Nos. 5 and 6 and 12 and 13.

Teammate Lauren Barned finished tied for second with Emma Wells of Providence at even-par 71 and Fiona Clancy of Beachside (73) was third. Defending champion Sadaly Campbell of Fernandina Beach shot 74.

Cox called her round, “just a lot of scramble golf.”

“I had some good up-and-downs but it wasn’t my best golf,” she said. “It was not an easy 69.”

But it was good enough to win.

Jacksonville Beach Varsity Invitational

(Format: best four scores from boys and girls teams)

Team results 

Ponte Vedra 597

Boys (295): Cooper Franklin 72, Cameron Reed 73, Easton Olivia 73, Finley Lebrun 77, Chase Bloss 83.

Girls (302: Nancy Cox 69, Lauren Barned 71, Tory Barned, Stella Moritz 79, Alexandra Drum 83.

Beachside 603

Boys (303): Nolan Harper 68, Samuel Ha 76, Barton Abstein 78, Jonah Nacional 81, Caiden Lee 82.

Girls (300): Fiona Clancy 73, Sofia Rivera 74, Alexia Iordanov 76, Maddie Rathjen 77, Ralienne Nacional 79.

Episcopal 618

Boys (295): Henry Robards 68, Connor Hess 71, Aubrey Fellows 75, John John Pacjic 81, Grant McKinney 90.

Girls (323): Sahana Chokshi 78, Sofia Davila 78, Isabella Gatewood 81, Olivia Messana 86, Simryn Chokshi 92.

Bolles 625

Boys (311): Luke Balaskiewicz 75, Enzo Martanaz 75, Andrew Sharkey 78, Nico Vasto 83, Dylan Tran 92.

Girls (314): Anaiya Nahar 74, Grace Breffitt 75, Maya Miller 82, Chloe McGrath 83, Riley Powell 93.

Providence 650 

Boys (321): Alexander Stewart 77, Jack Cole 78, Keelan Jackson 80. Ethan Grossman 86, Benjamin Strongosky 93.

Girls (329): Emma Wells 71, Alexa Fallis 77, Jessee Thompson 90, Brooke Thomas 91, Emily Burford 96.

Nease 653

Boys (304): Ryan Nicholson 70, Ethan Tak 74, Cooper Diaz 78, Nicholas Adamonis 82, Chase McBride 82.

Girls (349): Sophia Cavanagh 84, Aliyah Sta Ana 86, Nyla Mayers 89, Gabby Sartori 90, Emma Menzel 91.

Creekside 711

Boys (362): Carter Smith 89, Gavin Hardee 90, Nick Zinn 94, Gavin Brewton 105.

Girls (349): Lila Weaver 85, Camila Burgos 85, Kyra Gravelle 87, Anna Jones 92, Neeya Patel 93.



Carter Abitabilo (Tocoi Creek) 71, Cameron Abitabilo (Tocoi Creek) 74, Keanu Evans (Fletcher) 76, Brock Buhnerkemper (Orange Park) 77.


Sadaly Campbell (Fernandina Beach) 74, Addy Vogt (St. Johns Country Day) 76, Kalia Polete (Fleming Island) 76, Janiya Brown (Tocoi Creek 79.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Ponte Vedra Sharks boys, girls golf teams combine to win Jax Beach Varsity

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