Over the past few months, junior Gordon Neale has emerged as the No. 1 golfer for the No. 11 Florida team.
Coming into this weekend’s Mason Rudolph Championship in Franklin, Tennessee, Neale will occupy the first spot in Florida’s lineup for the sixth consecutive event. The team hasn’t competed in a competitive event in almost a month, and Neale has reason to be more eager than normal.
“We changed my irons,” Neale said. “I can’t wait for [the Mason Rudolph]. It’s gonna be the first tournament in a while my ball-striking feels how it used to feel.”
The Gators will need all the extra help they can muster this weekend to defend their title at the event. Last year, Florida won the Mason Rudolph Championship by one stroke over Alabama and four stokes over Vanderbilt. Neale finished tied for third in the event. Senior Alejandro Tosti and sophomore Andy Zhang are also in the starting lineup again this year.
Vanderbilt, though, has gotten the better of Florida so far this year. The No. 3 Commodores have finished ahead of the Gators in the previous two events they have both competed in. Vanderbilt is also familiar with the course, as it is hosting the event.
With the SEC Championship in just a couple of weeks, it’ll be important for the Gators to gain momentum and prove to Vanderbilt that they are still worth worrying about.
Freshmen Chris Nido and John Axelsen will be joining Neale, Tosti and Zhang in the lineup. With no collegiate experience at this course, the duo could be the difference between last year’s Florida score and this year’s.
Coach J.C. Deacon isn’t worried, however.
“The freshmen have been amazing all year,” Deacon said. “[They’ve] contributed so much.”