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Thursday, June 20, 2024

As usual, the UF men's golf team did something unusual.

For Coach Buddy Alexander, though, it was unprecedented.

"I don't remember being low round of the day and high round of the day on consecutive days in 30 years of coaching," Alexander said.

Yet after his Gators blistered the Sawgrass Country Club course on Tuesday for an even-par 288 that vaulted them to a fifth-place finish at the John Hayt Invitational, that dubious honor was theirs.

Still, it wasn't totally unexpected - Alexander himself predicted it.

"(Tuesday) morning, I told them we shot high round of the day yesterday, and that we were going to shoot low round of the day today," he chuckled. "Go figure."

That phrase sums up much of the topsy-turvy season to date.

The latest head-scratcher is juniors Will Strickler and Billy Horschel seemingly swapping games for a week.

Strickler, who played sparingly in the fall, finished tied for second, a career best, after a one-under 71 Tuesday. His two-under led all Gators golfers, but since he competed as an individual, his score was not factored into the team tally.

Alexander was only mildly shocked.

"He wiggled his way into a couple tournaments in the fall and then played in an amateur tournament in January, tied for third and caught my eye," Alexander said. "He's coming on."

Horschel failed to submit a round in red numbers during the tournament, though his even-par 72 on Tuesday brought him to a tie for 38th that he shared with freshman Bank Vongvanij, who shot a 73.

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Alexander has been perplexed by the two-time All-American's struggles.

"I don't think there's any question that there's some concern," he said. "So far, on the season, we're not seeing the Billy Horschel we saw the first two years here."

He's confident Horschel will return to form as UF sets its sights on Southeastern Conference and NCAA crowns.

"Big-timers usually step up in big situations," Alexander said.

Going forward, UF's newest visionary sees more silver linings than clouds.

"We've got a lot of horsepower, and we're capable of some pretty violent inconsistencies," Alexander said, "(but) I think we're headed in the right direction."

Junior Tyler Brown capped a fine tournament with a 70 Tuesday that left him at even for the tournament, in sole possession of seventh place. Manuel Villegas' 73 earned him a share of 16th.

And Tyson Alexander's tournament is mercifully over, after an 80 that left him in 80th place.

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