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Monday, March 04, 2024

The UF women's golfers expected to win the SunTrust Lady Gator Invitational.

But not even they expected what transpired this weekend.

The Gators ran away with their home tournament at the Mark Bostick Golf Course, recording three straight rounds under 290 to finish at nine-over for the tournament, 23 shots clear of second-place Louisville.

"They showed how we can play golf, and they're determined to play this focused for the rest of the year," UF coach Jill Briles-Hinton said. "(Assistant coach Robin Walton) and I have been telling them this for the last four years. They're just realizing it now."

Senior Tiffany Chudy, never over par at any point in the tournament, paced the Gators and the field, finishing at one-under and claiming medalist honors for the first time in her UF career.

Her 209 is the Gators' lowest individual total ever in the Lady Gator Invitational, edging Sandra Gal's 210 in 2007.

Don't try to get her to brag about it, though.

"I stuck to my game plan the entire week and just went out and tried to do my own thing," Chudy said. "I certainly didn't think about breaking any records, but I'm happy that I did."

Briles-Hinton praised Chudy's resilience, exemplified by her refusal to cede ground to Louisville's Cindy LaCrosse, who rallied to tie for the lead early on Sunday.

"Tiffany has shown, through her four years, how mentally tough she is," Briles-Hinton said. "She keeps coming back. She's always persevered, and she persevered today."

Chudy was just one of five Gators to place in the top 10 for the weekend. Senior Whitney Myers finished third at three-over, freshman Hannah Yun tied for fourth, junior Ornella Jouven earned a share of seventh, and freshman Jessica Yadloczky, despite an uncharacteristic birdie-free round on Sunday, tied for ninth.

"That was a case of 'It happens, it's golf.' It happens to the best," Briles-Hinton explained. "For whatever reason, I think she lost her confidence. We're going to work on it so she can stop the bleeding a little bit sooner."

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Together, the quintet smashed all sorts of UF and tournament records on the way to their second win of the season.

The combined 849 is the team's lowest tournament score in school history, besting a mark set at the 1985 Ryder Championships and tied at the Mercedes-Benz Championships last fall.

Further, Friday's combined 280 was the lowest team round in school and tournament history. UF's previous low was a 283 at the same Ryder Championships, and the Lady Gator Invitational record, 282, had been held by SEC rivals Auburn and Georgia.

Chudy was less tight-lipped when talking about her team's exploits.

"I think that's amazing," she said of the record-breaking performances. "I knew all along. It was just a matter of putting it all together. I'm really happy for my girls. I'm glad that we can share this experience."

Briles-Hinton, however, was more guardedly optimistic.

"It was another tournament," she said. "Everyone talks about breaking records. I guess in the big picture, it's very exciting. (But) the outcome presented itself because we took it one shot at a time."

Still, she's aware that this squad, if trends continue, may go down as her best team in 10 years at UF.

"I'm extremely proud of them," Briles-Hinton said.

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