The tee shots, the fairways, the greens, everything about Hilaman Golf Course is familiar to Florida High junior Henry Westmoreland.
After all, he is an employee.
Using his “local” knowledge, Westmoreland took medalist honors in Monday’s Big Bend Championship in boys golf, shaking off an early mistake to shoot a 2-under par 70.
“I’ve played out here my entire life since I was 4,” Westmoreland said. “I come out here with my dad. When I turned 16 and got my driver’s license, I applied to play out here, work out here. Just being out here every day, getting to know the course, really helps.”
Westmoreland, who lost in a playoff to Chiles sophomore Eli Hendricks in last week’s city championship, had to endure another one-hole playoff, this time against Chiles’ Bennett Baker.
But this time, the putter that failed at an inopportune moment belonged to a Timberwolves golfer.
“It was a putt-off last week,” Westmoreland.
“It was just about the same this time. Bennett made a good putt but was a little unlucky it didn’t go in. I know the feeling. The feeling does suck, but it’s good to get a little bit of redemption from last week.”
Westmoreland displayed moments of brilliance and resolve. He committed a two-stroke penalty on No. 2 after playing the wrong ball, only to turn around and birdie two of the next three holes to make the turn at even.
“Yes, a two-stroke penalty is unfortunate because I ended up hitting a good shot and ended up eagleing the hole from the ball I originally hit, but that’s golf,” Westmoreland said. “You can’t let that bother you. You’re going to have those disadvantages.”
His birdie on No. 15 after driving the green and leaving a 10-foot eagle putt an inch high was one of three straight birdies on the back nine.
“I’ve played 15 so many times and that hole always gets me and it’s good to finally get that hole,” Westmoreland said.
“It’s such an easy hole and yet it’s so challenging– there’s always something in the way if I don’t hit the green. Being able to hit that green, getting as close as I did, really helps.”
Chiles took home a team victory for the second straight week, shooting 296 to repeat as Big Bend champs, and again placed all five of its golfers well inside the top 10.
“We’ll take any score under the 300,” Timberwolves coach Ken Smith said. “Any under 300, you have a chance to win. A couple of these guys got off to a rough start and held it down and came back to shoot 75, 76. That’s a good score.”
Timberwolves junior Chase Burkhalter grinded his way to a 3-over 75, behind a birdie on the par-4 10th.
A hole later, the skies unleashed a brief, hard downpour and afternoon conditions changed. With most of the bunkers already under water and the ground soggy from the night before, it was difficult for many of the golfers.
“It was pretty good the first nine and then the rain came and the wind picked up,” Smith said. “Things were wet, things were windy, so 296, we’ll take it.”
Rickards’ Matthew Dunn came in third, shooting 74 as part of the lead foursome with Westmoreland, Burkhalter and Maclay’s Hunter Mall (75). Maclay finished in second with 322 and Florida High was third at 329. The Seminoles’ Brian Bowman shot 77 to finish in the top 10 individually and the team hung up a solid score on the strength of Westmoreland’s incredible consistency.
“It’s a lot of pressure on him to shoot low so we have a chance, but he does it and the other kids are playing well,” Florida High coach Al Blizzard said.