Positivity key for Buffalo golf teams at District Tournament

Jack Panigoni, of The Villages High School, hits from the bunker on the first hole of the Talley Ho course of Glenview Champions Country Club in September.

At the Class 1A-District 6 Tournament, golfers can choose to battle each other or the challenging 18-hole layout at Timacuan Golf & Country Club.

But for The Villages High School boys and girls golf teams, the focus is on battling themselves and taking on their own temperaments.

Both Buffalo squads will compete in district tournament play 8:30 a.m. today in Lake Mary, looking to keep their wits and emotions in check — all in hopes of qualifying for the regional tournament next week.

“Avoiding frustration is definitely a big part of golf,” VHS senior Jack Panigoni said. “Either you’ve got to be really laid back as a person or you’ve got to practice a ton to get over bad shots quick out here. When a round starts going bad, you’ve got to find a way to turn it around.”

Panigoni will lead a Buffalo boys squad that finished 13-4 overall in head-to-head matches with opponents this fall, while also returning all four players from its runner-up finish at districts a year ago.

Mark Panigoni, Jack’s father and the team’s second-year head coach, said one of the keys to replicating a strong postseason performance is not letting a bad shot potentially evolve into a bad round.

“It comes down to personal confidence,” the elder Panigoni said. “When you feel like that’s your value — when you hit bad shots and you feel like that’s all you do — that’s when you get in trouble. These guys, though, they know how good they can be.”

Bobby Green also knows how good the Buffalo girls squad can be, as the head coach in his third season at VHS he has preached the same message ahead of district play.

“It’s all about having confidence and just grinding through it,” Green said. “Sometimes, you’re going to hit bad shots or you’re going to play with a girl that outdrives you by 50 yards. That’s golf — that’s going to happen.

“But I like to tell them that the golf course is their safe place, and when they’re out here they can let it all go and just go play.”

Junior Elle Folland has let all of her inhibitions go on the course this season, leading the Buffalo to a 9-2 mark in head-to-head team play this season. Folland enters the district tournament on a streak of five consecutive rounds played at even-par or better, with that success obtained by keeping the mental aspect of the game at the forefront.

“Staying positive and taking things one shot at a time has helped me so much,” Folland said. “I’ve tried to smile through some of the bad shots and keep a positive outlook on things. It’s not the end of the world if you bogey a hole.”