The SunTrust Gator Invitational, which concluded on Sunday, did not go as planned for the No. 8 Florida men’s golf team.
UF played well on Saturday, the tournament’s first day, but struggled on Sunday, and ended up finishing in second place, nine strokes behind No. 3 Vanderbilt.
The win was a statement from the Commodores. They showed up on Florida’s home course in Gainesville and thoroughly outperformed the Gators. UF coach J.C. Deacon, who believed his team would have an advantage playing on its home course, was unhappy with how the weekend unfolded.
“We just seem to be making the same mistakes. We gotta tighten up the details,” Deacon said. “Some of that’s on me, for sure.”
Vanderbilt swept through the SEC tournament last year on the way to its first ever SEC title, and the Commodores have the talent to repeat, as they showed this weekend. The teams with the best chance of stopping them are No. 2 Texas A&M, who Vanderbilt defeated in the clinching match last year, as well as No. 4 Alabama and Florida.
Vanderbilt is led by junior Will Gordon, who shot 6 under to finish tied for fourth place at the Gator Invitational. Gordon is ranked as the No. 7 player in collegiate golf by Golfweek.
Other Commodores appearing in the top 50 of the Golfweek rankings are senior Theo Humphrey, ranked No. 22, and junior Patrick Martin, ranked No. 50. By comparison, Florida only has one player ranked in the top 50 — junior Gordon Neale at No. 46.
Despite the strength of Vanderbilt’s team, Deacon believes Florida can compete.
“They bring the best out of us. Hopefully we do the same for them,” Deacon said. “We’ll be back. We got a resilient group, and we’re gonna find a way to be better and hopefully push them to their highest level too.”
Florida and Vanderbilt will have plenty of opportunities to push each other this year. They will meet again in March at the Schenkel Invitational in Statesboro, Georgia. In April, they will both compete in the Mason Rudolph Championship, Vanderbilt’s home event, in Franklin, Tennessee.
All of this leads up to the SEC Championships at the end of April, which of course is the prize both teams want to win. But Florida senior Alejandro Tosti, who hasn’t been part of an SEC champion team, isn’t worried about the conference title just yet.
“I don’t think we have to focus too bad [on Vanderbilt],” Tosti said. “Just a matter of didn’t happen our way.”