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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

In women's golf in this decade, there is a gold standard by which all others are judged: Duke.

The Blue Devils have taken four of the last six NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championships, including the past three, and had three individual champions in the last seven years.

Still, though the No. 5 UF women's golf team will be looking up to No. 1 Duke as the current model of success in college golf, their focus this weekend at the Bryan Park National Collegiate in Brown Summit, N.C. is on themselves.

Coach Jill Briles-Hinton's squad is coming off its worst tournament, statistically, of the year, a wind-ravaged Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational, and hoping to rebound at their last outing before the SEC Championship in April.

"It is important to play well this weekend so we can have confidence going into the SEC (Championship)," Briles-Hinton said. "We got beat up in Texas, and the windy conditions brought out our weaknesses. We have been working on our weaknesses and a couple of knockdown shots. We are working on each area that we need to get better at."

If her Gators do get better, they would only be more formidable than they already are. UF boasts two golfers in the top 25 of the Golfweek/Sagarin individual ratings, with freshman Jessica Yadloczky at 17th and Whitney Myers at 24th.

Combine that with junior Ornella Jouven, who is coming off a career-best tie for fourth at the Betsy Rawls, senior Tiffany Chudy, who won her first college title at the Lady Gator Invitational in February, and freshman Hannah Yun, who has yet to finish lower than a tie for 24th in her three events as a Gator, and the lineup becomes a team that can be forgiven for entertaining thoughts of seeing the Blue Devils again in the NCAA Championships.

"We have another opportunity to go head-to-head with Duke," Briles-Hinton said. "That is important to this group. They will have to know how to stand up to them."

If these Gators can learn how to do that, they could well be looking down the leaderboard at them at year's end.

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