Gradually, the No. 5 Florida men’s golf team is learning to deal with adversity.

After struggling throughout much of the Fall season, the team finally captured its first victory at the Florida Gulf Coast University Classic on Oct. 27 and had an impressive 23-shot victory at the first tournament of Spring.

However, after giving up a narrow lead and finishing third in the SunTrust Gator Invitational at the Mark Bostick Golf Course on Sunday, it’s back to the drawing board.

"It was the first time this year that the team had a slim lead going into the final round, so it was kind of a new experience for us," head coach J.C. Deacon said. "Just came out flat."

Slow starts and mental errors plagued the Gators’ five-man lineup on the final day of the tournament.

Freshman Jorge Garcia had four bogeys on the front nine but managed to shoot 2 under on the back nine en route to a 1-under 69.

Overnight leader freshman Sam Horsfield began the final round looking for his second collegiate winin two tries.

Instead, an even-par 70 placed him alone in second, four shots behind Rigel Fernandes of No. 21 South Florida.

Perhaps the biggest error of the tournament, however, came from UF sophomore Alejandro Tosti, whose tournament scores were not counted after he was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. Instead of remaining in a tie for second with No. 13 Vanderbilt at 14 under par, the Gators dropped to 13 under, moving them into third place.

"It’s tough," Deacon said. "We worked really hard. We played this course more than anyone. The guys really did put a lot of time into preparing, and we are a really good team.

"I know they wanted to win and thought they would win, but that’s golf sometimes and really, that’s life. You can give it your all and play pretty good, and on some days, someone’s just better."

Even so, Deacon said he has been impressed with the depth, attitude and fight of this team.

He wants Florida to learn a lesson from its recent failures and use it to drive them throughout the rest of the Spring season.

"The more important thing to me is how we react to it," Deacon said of the loss. "We got taught a little lesson, and I think it happened for a reason.

"Hopefully we come back and use that as motivation."

Contact Ray Boone at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @rboone1994