PALM COAST — Alexandra Gazzoli said not much has changed for her in the last nine months, but that’s selling herself a little short.
Since she captured the 2A state title in November, becoming the first Matanzas golfer to do so, Gazzoli committed to Florida State, won the Florida State Golf Association’s Women’s Amateur Stroke Play Championship and improved “a lot” this summer.
That could spell trouble for the rest of the state.
Now, she returns for her senior season, looking to defend her crown. It feels similar to her first three years, she said, with one key difference.
“Now that I did win,” Gazzoli said, “it’s like, oh, I know that I can.”
Gazzoli finished third at the state outing as a freshman and second as a sophomore before finally grasping the gold last fall. She shot a 140, ending the two-day tournament at 2-under par and as the Volusia-Flagler area’s lone 2022 champ.
Soon after, she chose Florida State — where her dad, uncle and two older brothers studied — over programs like Georgia and Oklahoma State.
“There were multiple factors,” Gazzoli said. “I grew up a fan, so that’s fun. But I took my time and wanted to have an open mind for all those schools. It was actually harder than I thought it would be, but the coaches and the facilities and just their program overall and my emotional ties made me choose them.”
Then, in July, she claimed her first FSGA championship. She fired a 2-under 214 across three rounds in Naples and survived a playoff against Oklahoma State golfer Jacqui Putrino.
“The course was in great condition,” Gazzoli said. “It was, overall, just really fun. I enjoyed being there. It was a really awesome experience playing against great competition and being able to win.”
Her success sprouted from hard work since she first swung a club at the age of 2. Her practice routine spans almost every single day. She starts with her short game around the practice green and then goes through her bag on the driving range, often by herself.
Hitting the long balls is her favorite part of the sport.
She also trains with swing coach Anne Cain.
But her biggest adjustment in the past three years might not be her 10-foot putts or 5-iron strikes, said her head coach at Matanzas.
“When she first started on the team and she made a mistake, you could see the frustration and you knew that she had made a mistake, and everybody around her knew,” Brandie Alred said. “Not so much that it was so over the top, like she wasn’t throwing clubs. That was never, ever, ever a thing.
“But now, if she hits a bad shot, you would have no idea. Or if she hits a great shot, you would have no idea, which is how she should be.”
That, and she’s grown from a quiet freshman into a team leader.
This year’s Pirates bring back everyone from their 2022 district championship lineup except Emma Markese, who graduated. Last year, Gazzoli was Matanzas’ only representative at that state meet.
She wants the Pirates to qualify as a team during her senior campaign, with her spearheading the charge.
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL ROUNDUP: Volusia-Flagler scores from Week 1
“It has been so much fun just to tell people,” Alred said of Gazzoli’s success last week. “We were just on hole four, and some people were just coming through. They were like, ‘Oh, we’ll watch her play.’ I was like, ‘Watch this girl play.’
“I just talk her up all the time because I don’t think like, if you’re in the golf community you know, but if you’re not necessarily in the golf community that we have such a superstar here in Palm Coast.”
At least for one final year and, if all goes according to plan, one last run at the state tournament.
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: High school golf: Alexandra Gazzoli looks to defend state championship