Hawks close out season with 11th place finish at state golf tournament


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Viera High golf coach Greg Ford called senior Mary Kate Smith "the best leader I have ever had in this program." Smith, shown here after playing her final hole as a Hawk, shot a 79 on the final day of the Class 3A state championship at the Mission Inn & Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS – As she was tapping in her final putt … of the round … of her high school career, Viera High senior Mary Kate Smith couldn’t help but think to herself:

“This is it.”

And with that, Smith finished with a 79 for a two-day total of 154 at the Class 3A state tournament at the Mission Inn & Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills.

After starting the day in a tie for ninth place, and with a goal of finishing in the top 10, the Hawks would ultimately fall just a little bit short. Viera’s team score of 689 put the Hawks in 11th place, just one shot out of 10th and two shots behind the ninth-place finisher, Doral.

Junior Briana Gabe had the low score of the tournament for Viera with back-to-back scores of 75 for a total of 150.

Freshman Ana Maria Tea followed up her opening round 87 with a 94 for a score of 181. Senior Melissa Luciani shot 102 both days for a total of 204. Freshman Heart Gerosano came in at 112 and 113 for a final score of 225.

“We started out well today,” Viera coach Greg Ford said. “Briana went 3-under right off the bat and Mary Kate was even through nine holes. A couple of bad decisions on the backside by several of our players and things fall apart real easy here at this course.

“But that’s the way this game is. We’ll learn from it and get better moving forward.”

Just getting back to the state tournament was quite an accomplishment for the Hawks, who played the entire season without No. 1 player Manon Donche-Gay, who is dealing a family health emergency.

With Smith and Gabe serving as the team leaders, Viera still won it’s 11th consecutive district title and finished second in the region. The Hawks were tied for ninth place going into the final day.

“It wasn’t my best,” Smith said of her Wednesday round. “I went in the trees a lot, but I think I recovered pretty well. It’s a tough course. It’s pretty narrow, so if you hit one or two shots off, the strokes can add up quick.”

The fact that she was about to play her final hole for Viera High hit Smith just as she was walking up to the tee box which is probably why, she joked, she didn’t hit a great shot.

“But it was a good final round,” she said. “It was a good final state tournament.”

As Smith and her teammates stood just off the putting green, going over the day’s events, Ford was talking about the kind of impact the senior has had on the Viera program.

“I can’t say enough, to be honest,” he said. “She has been the best leader I have ever had in this program. She’s been an awesome person to have at the top and she actually has grown like you wouldn’t believe over the past year.

“That maturity level is what’s taken her to the next level, because now she can make mistakes and it doesn’t affect her like it used to. She’s a great kid and we definitely wish her luck. She’s going to be sorely missed.”

Smith played in three state tournaments for the Hawks and has committed to Lipscomb University to play for the Bisons next year.

“It’s been great,” she said of her time at Viera. “It’s really developed me as a golfer and as a person. Coach Ford’s got a great program going. I think every girl can say they’ve gone through it and become a better golfer and person.

“I’m blessed to be a part of it. We had a really good team last year and the year before. This year, we made it to states even though we didn’t have all of our best players, so that’s a great accomplishment.”

For Viera’s other senior, Luciani, this marked her first state tournament.

“That’s the thing about Melissa, she’s waited and her turn came,” Ford said. “She was able to play most of the year and she got the experience of coming here and playing in the state championship.

“I told them all (Tuesday night) it’s very rare, with all of the high school athletes in the United States, to get to play in the state finals once, let alone every year like we do. … I’m very proud of them for being here.”