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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Duke is the three-time defending national champion in the world of NCAA women's golf, but the weekend belonged to the Gators.

No.4 UF upset No.1 Duke winning the NCAA East Regional by a single shot Saturday at the University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens, Ga.

"This team continues to show a lot of heart," UF coach Jill Briles-Hinton said. "I am so proud of what they have done to pull this off. Our team shows that it never quits and just keeps fighting."

The Gators went into the final day of the tournament with a three-shot lead and shot a final round 10-over 298 to knock out the champ.

UF needed birdies on 18 by Hannah Yun and Ornella Jouven to hold off the rallying Blue Devils.

"The birdies on 18 were significant and proved to be the difference," Briles-Hinton said. "We were in a tough situation but really never felt the pressure. We were not nervous at all down the stretch. We added up the scores at the end and came out on top."

Coming into the tournament, Duke not only boasted the nations No.1 player, Amanda Blumenherst, but had won eight of the last 10 regionals that they had competed in.

The win was the third straight for the Gators in tournament play and the fifth on the season - the most since the 1985-86 team won 10 times on their way to the program's last national title.

Saturday marked the Gators' second victory over Duke in as many tournaments. UF also topped the Blue Devils back on March 30 to win the Bryan National Collegiate.

With a lineup that features two true freshmen, the Gators were able to earn the best regional finish in program history. Their previous best, a third-place finish, came during the 1996 season.

After 22 years, UF is once again a national title contender.

"As a coach, it is very rewarding to watch the players have success," Briles-Hinton said. "We know we have as good of a shot as anyone to win the (NCAA) title. We are playing really well right now and playing for each other. They've really taken matters into their own hands. They've worked extremely hard to make sure that they did the things they needed to do to be successful."

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Tiffany Chudy finished the 54-hole event with a seventh-place finish. The senior provided the Gators with their only under-par round of the tournament Saturday shooting a 1-under 71.

"I told her after her round that I was very proud of her," said Briles-Hinton of Chudy. "She really showed her senior leadership out there all week with her play."

Yun finished the tournament with a final-round 3-over 75. It was the fourth top-20 finish of the season for the freshman.

The 16-year-old posted a team-high 10 birdies on the week.

The Gators will now make the trip to Albuquerque, N.M., where they, and seven other schools from the East Regional including Duke, for the national championship.

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