HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS — With five holes to play in the FHSAA Class 1A Women’s Golf Tournament at Mission Inn, Orlando rivals The First Academy and Circle Christian were tied for first in the standings.

Then, on the 14th hole of the Las Colinas course, TFA #1 player Mi Li landed her tee shot in the rough challenging par 4.

“We almost didn’t find it,” Li said later. “That wouldn’t have been good.”

But Li and her coach, Victoria Tanco, located the ball halfway into the ground. She was approved by an FHSAA rules official to clean the ball and drop it.

Li’s next shot wasn’t bad, but it was headed for a tree beside the green. The bullet ricocheted off a branch and landed less than six feet from the hole.

She capitalized on that good fortune with a birdie, and added another birdie on the next hole when she drained an 18-foot putt. It propelled Li to the individual championship and helped the Royals take the lead and win their second team title in three years and their fourth in six seasons on Saturday.

“Those birdies really helped us get into the final holes of a tough golf course,” Tanco said. “It allowed us to breathe a little.”

Li, a sophomore who was part of Windermere Prep’s 1A title team a year ago before transferring to TFA, finished with a 5-under-par 66 to claim 2 medalist honors beatings in front of Amelie Phung of FAU High School.

There was a four-way tie for third place between girls from four different regional teams. Circle Christian eighth-grader Angelina Pacheco, Lake Mary Prep junior Nancy Dai, TFA sophomore Youyang Li and Windermere Prep junior Yetong Qian all shot 1 under 70.

TFA’s 286-team total was 3 strokes ahead of Circle Christian (289) and 5 better than third-place Lake Mary Prep (291) as Orlando-area teams again dominated

The region’s teams have won the 1A Women’s Championship 13 years in a row. TFA, Windermere Prep and Lake Mary Prep each have four of these titles.

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“It was really tight all day,” Circle Christian second-year coach Lara Van Staden said. “We beat [TFA] regionally, so we knew it would be tight. We played well and I’m still happy with our second place.

The 14th hole that was part of TFA’s success was a problem for Lake Mary Prep.

“Hole 12 and 14 lost us today,” Griffins coach Mike Jamison said. “But we are a young team and watch out for us next year.”

The 1A tournament, like the 3A tournament won by the Lake Mary girls, was shortened to one day due to school closures and other complications caused by Storm Nicole.

On the boys side, FAU took the title with a 294. The top team in the zone was Circle Christian in sixth with 308. TFA was eighth with 310 and Lake Mary Prep finished 10th with 314.

The top local individual was Windermere Prep freshman Josiah Wang. He finished tied for third at 2 under par 70 on the El Campeon course. TFA freshman Mingbo Jiang finished sixth at age 72.

This report was first published at Orlandosentinel.com. Buddy Collings, Academic Content Editor, can be contacted by email at [email protected].