Gordon Neale

Junior Gordon Neale finished 4 under par for the tournament, good for a tie for eighth place. 

Alligator File Photo

After 36 holes on Saturday, the No. 8 Florida men’s golf team was just a stroke behind No. 3 Vanderbilt for the lead in the SunTrust Gator Invitational, its first competitive event of the spring season.  

Entering the final round Sunday, the Gators had a realistic opportunity to win their home event — held annually at the Mark Bostick Golf Course in Gainesville — for the first time since 2011.

Instead, Vanderbilt (-18) pulled away, finishing nine strokes ahead of the Gators (-9) for an easy victory. Florida was able to salvage second by shooting two under on the day, with South Florida, North Florida and UCF rounding out the top five.

Despite his team finishing second out of 16, Florida coach J.C. Deacon wasn’t happy with his its performance.

“We just didn’t have our best stuff this week,” Deacon said. “Just didn’t have it. We weren’t good enough, and we gotta be better if we’re gonna beat teams like Vanderbilt.”

Florida’s best performer this weekend was junior Gordon Neale, who shot 4 under par and finished the tournament tied for eighth place. He was the only Gator in the top 10. Despite Neale’s finish, Deacon believes his junior still has room for improvement.

“He made some pretty big mistakes today that cost him some bogeys, down the stretch especially,” Deacon said. “If we’re gonna be great, he’s gotta be great.”

Senior Alejandro Tosti was the only other Florida golfer to finish under par, at -2.

“It was OK,” Tosti said of his own performance. “Could have been better.”

It was a solid weekend for freshman John Axelsen, who shot an even par. Sophomore Andy Zhang recovered after a poor performance on Saturday, shooting 2 under par to finish the event at 1 over. It was not a good Sunday, however, for redshirt sophomore Blake Dyer, who finished the event at 5 over after shooting an even par on Saturday.

Florida freshmen Chris Nido and Won Jun Lee entered the event as individuals and did not factor into UF’s overall score. They finished at 4 over and 6 over, respectively.

Vanderbilt played the role of the dominant leaders Sunday, shooting 10 under par in the final round. For the weekend, the Commodores had three players place in the top 10. Junior Will Gordon and sophomore John Augenstein both shot 6 under, putting them in a tie for fourth place in the event. Senior Theo Humphrey finished tied for eighth after shooting 4 under.

Missouri senior Hayden Buckley was the event’s individual champion, shooting 6 under in the final round to finish the weekend at 8 under par.

Florida’s next competitive action will take place at the Southern Highlands Collegiate, which begins on March 5 in Las Vegas.

Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano and contact him at [email protected].