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Monday, March 04, 2024

It may look like rain this weekend in Gainesville, but the UF women's golf team is ready to shine for the locals.

The No. 5 Gators will stay home this weekend to host the SunTrust Lady Gator Invitational, beginning today and running through Sunday.

UF historically plays well at the Mark Bostick Golf Course, having captured the tournament title in five of the last eight years, including triumphs in 2006 and 2007.

Tiffany Chudy, who carded a career-best 68 in last year's final round, stopped just short of predicting a Gators victory.

"This is our home event. We all know the course like the back of our hand," the senior said. "That's a huge advantage."

The notion of losing has barely crossed Chudy's mind.

"I don't even want to think about that," she said. "To have that happen would not be fun."

The Gators will be the prohibitive favorite this weekend, with only one other Golfweek/Sagarin Top 25 team - No. 13 Wake Forest - in the 16-team field. The Gators finished 21 shots ahead of the Demon Deacons in the spring season-opening Northrup Grumman Challenge.

"If you look at the rankings, we're clearly the team to beat," said UF coach Jill Briles-Hinton.

Clearly, confidence isn't an issue, either.

"Confidence is huge," Briles-Hinton said. "I feel very positive about this group. They've withstood some punches. They've got some resilience."

Better yet, they have some experience and some talent, and they have four of the Southeastern Conference's top 20 in scoring average in Whitney Myers, Jessica Yadloczky, Ornella Jouven and Chudy.

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That's a gaudy statistic for a team that lost Sandra Gal to the LPGA before the spring season began.

But Yadloczky said that questions about a post-Gal team were definitively answered by their second-place finish in California.

"We all wanted to show the SEC and NCAA that we had a team, not a one-person show," Yadloczky said. "We wanted to show our team was strong enough to go on without her."

In no small measure, that success could be attributed to Yadloczky's improved putting, the aspect of her game that had troubled her most in the fall. If not for a two-stroke penalty, Yadloczky would have won the Northrup Grumman Challenge and claimed her

first college title.

Still, Yadloczky says the progress in her game is almost as rewarding as a victory.

"Even though I wasn't hitting every green in regulation, I had every piece of my game," she said. "I think that I've prepared myself mentally and physically for so many years, and I'm glad it's finally clicking."

Now, she's excited to show off her game and her team in front of a friendly crowd.

"Bring your friends, your dog, your dad, your second cousin and your grandma from New York City," Yadloczky said. "It's fun to be home."

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