HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS — With a state meet appearance already under her belt, Lecanto sophomore Maegan Pungsuwan said she came in better prepared for this year’s FHSAA Class 2A Girls State Golf Championships. It showed on Friday.

Pungsuwan fired a 7-over par 79 on the Las Colinas course at Mission Inn & Resort to finish the opening day tied for 17th place and just a few strokes out of a top 10 position.

“Last year I was a lot more nervous. I’m a lot more used to tournaments, so I was more calm this time,” Pungsuwan said. “My long game today wasn’t so good, because my wrist was not cooperating. I would say my short game saved many holes today.

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“I was going for less than 80, which I just made at 79. It’s fine.”

That score led the Panthers, who are in 13th place in the team race entering today’s final round.

Two other players who were also on Lecanto’s seventh-place team a year ago at state — sisters Alexis and Angelica Smith — finished tied with 98s on the opening day. Newcomers Haley Holderfield (108) and Evelyn Larsen (115) got their first taste of state.

“I think everyone did good. I just liked the calmness of today, especially with two new players. Everyone was very calm and paced themselves,” Lecanto head coach Stephanie Smith said.

Last year, just about every Panther player improved their scores in the second round. Coach Smith hopes for the same today, so the Panthers can climb up the team score ladder.

“I think tomorrow will have that same trend, knocking off strokes and just getting comfortable out there. That’s the goal,” she said.

Pungsuwan had scores of 90 and 92 last season at the state tournament, so her improvement from one year to the next has been impressive, coach Smith said.

“Just the growth in Maegan from last year to this year. To see her play the way she did today, that’s just amazing,” coach Smith said. “She’s going places. Every day is a better day.”

Pungsuwan said she will put to use in the second round what she learned during her first 18 holes.

“I learned a lot today. I learned the spots to go, what clubs and obviously the conditions. I learned many things today and will use them tomorrow,” she said. “I hope the team does really good tomorrow and I believe we can do it.”

Coach Smith said the mental approach her team takes into a second 18 holes on a tough course will be crucial. She gave as an example a talk she had with one of her daughters midway through the first round.

“Angel’s first holes were very rough. On No. 8 I asked her, ‘Are you having fun.’ And she said ‘No.’ And I said ‘What’s the point? We’re out here to have fun.’ And this is a game you can play the rest of your life. So if you aren’t having fun, there’s no point in doing it. I want them to have fun and enjoy golf,” she said. “So that mental piece is always the biggest piece to me.”

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Contact Chronicle Sports Editor Matt Pfiffner at 352-564-2989 or mpfiffner@chronicleonline.com.

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