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Monday, June 24, 2024

Manuel Villegas followed a strong finish in Monday's second round in the Inverness Invitational in Toledo, Ohio with another two-under 69 in final round of play Tuesday to finish tied for third at two-under after 54 holes.

He can rest well knowing his efforts led the Gators to the low round of the day, a five-over 289 and a third-place finish.

But the lone senior for No. 4 UF team knows that it could have been better.

"We lost (second place) by one," Villegas said, noting Michigan State senior Ryan Brehm's dramatics.

Brehm birdied the 18th hole to cap a one-over 73. He finished three-under for the tournament and lifted the Spartans into sole possession of second place.

Brehm also tied for the individual title with Florida State's Jonas Blixt, who began the day with a two-shot advantage and led the Seminoles to first place, despite shooting a four-over 75.

Villegas, who was in the clubhouse in a three-way tie for second, fell to third after Brehm's birdie. But his consistency over three rounds earned him his third career top-five finish for UF.

"I got off to a slow start, but I played really good after that," Villegas said, alluding to his four back-nine birdies, including three on the last four holes. "I hit the ball well. I didn't putt as well as I would've liked, but that's the way it goes."

Also notching a milestone for the Gators was sophomore Tyson Alexander, son of coach Buddy Alexander, who registered his first collegiate top-ten with a tie for tenth place after an up-and-down 73.

Coach Alexander was understandably pleased with his team's efforts on Tuesday.

"For the first tournament of the year, we battled hard," Alexander said. "There were a lot of quality teams in this field, and we were able to beat some of the really good ones [No. 7 Oklahoma State and No. 12 UNLV]."

The experience may also pay off for a young UF team that played two freshmen in this opener and was without the services of two-time All-American junior Billy Horschel.

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Redshirt freshman Robbie Wight tied for 22nd at nine-over after a 74 that featured eight straight pars. True freshman Arnond Vongvanij followed a second-round 80 with a much smoother round, closing two-over 73 and rising twenty spots from the morning to finish in a tie for 44th at 13 over.

Junior Toby Ragland joined Vongvanij at 44th after a six-over 77.

The Gators next play at the Carpet Capital Collegiate in Dalton, Georgia on Friday and Saturday.

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