Morgan Beaulieu saved her best for last.
The talented sophomore golfer from Tohopekaliga High School earned an at-large bid to the Florida State Class 3A Golf Championship last week and shot 74-77-151 to earn a top 25 finish at the tough 5,455-yard Las Colinas Course at Mission Inn Resort.
St. Cloud junior Bryan Hernandez earned a spot in a playoff for the Orange Belt Conference Championship and would go on to birdie the second hole to win the county championship.
For those reasons, Beaulieu and Hernandez are the News-Gazette’s Male and Female Golfers of the Year for 2019.
Despite being only in her second year of varsity competition, Beaulieu has already had a notable career at Toho.
As a freshman, she won the Orange Belt Conference Championship and captured a spot in regional play by taking a top three individual spot among non-qualifying teams. In regional play, she just missed qualifying for the state championship by three shots when she picked up a triple bogey late in the round.
Beaulieu made it a goal to repeat as OBC champion, but to take her post-season one step further and qualify for the state championship. Shooting a 36-41—77 to defeat Celebration freshman Erin Oyzulek (81) and repeat as OBC Champion, Beaulieu shot 79 to capture one of three individual spots into the regional competition.
Her pre-season goal of earning a spot in the state championship came to fruition at regional play, where she shot a four-over 76 at Monday’s Class 3A, Region 2 Championship at West Orange Country Club to secure one of three available at-large spots in the state championship.
“Getting to state championship was always the big goal for this season,” Beaulieu said. “One bad shot cost me a chance to get there as a freshman and I wanted to take that next step this year.”
Beaulieu said that the experience of playing against the best in the state left her wanting more.
“It was a tremendous experience. I felt some pressure but thought I handled it pretty well. Getting back next year and finishing higher is certainly my goal for next year.”
“Morgan showed a lot of poise at states,” Tohopekaliga Coach Bobby Muzika said. “It was a tough course with a lot of hills and she opened with a 74 and was in the top 15. About the only thing disappointing was how she played the par 5s, where she was four over. Had she played those better, a possible top 10 finish could have been in play. That said, I could not be prouder of her finish and how she conducted herself on the course.”
Hernandez battled Harmony’s Austin Price, Celebration’s Owen Ingram and Tohopekaliga’s Jonathan Bonilla, and a couple of his own teammates for Player of the Year honors. At the OBC championship, Hernandez and Price both shot 80s, before Hernandez prevailed in a playoff for the championship.
Price (81) edged Hernandez (85) in district play a week later, but since no county golfers advanced to regional play, the News-Gazette kept with its long-standing tradition of naming the OBC Champion as its golfer of the year.
“Being selected as county golfer of the year is a great and well-deserved honor for Bryan,” St. Cloud Swing Coach Jim Endicott noted. “Obviously there were three or four other golfers including Austin, Owen and Jonathan were very closely bunched this year and any of them would have been a good choice.”
Endicott noted that Hernandez made significant improvement from his sophomore year.
“He easily lowered his 18-hole stroke average by 10 shots,” the veteran swing coach said. “He’s an excellent ball-striker and a hard worker, who needs to improve on his decision-making skills. If he continues to improve on the same pace, I could see him making it to regionals or possibly further next year.”
Other golfers considered for Play of the Year honors included Oyzulek and St. Cloud’s Kierstyn Kelly on the girl’s side; and Price, Ingram and Bonilla on the boy’s side.