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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

It shouldn't come as any surprise that when the No. 6 UF men's golf team opened play on Wednesday, it was Billy Horschel who stole the show.

As the Gators continue their quest for an NCAA championship, the two-time All-American carried over his clutch regional performance to pace UF on the tournament's opening day.

"Billy is one of the best players in the country and may not have had as good of a year as he would like," UF coach Buddy Alexander said, "but he stepped up at regionals when we needed him.

"He stepped up today because that is what big-time players do and it's what All-Americans do, so I am not surprised. I wouldn't be surprised to see him play solid all week long."

Horschel carded an even-par 72 on the day, which placed him in a tie for fourth. He had three birdies on the front nine, entering the turn at one-under. After birdying the 10th hole and making bogeys on 11 and 12, Horschel made par on the last six holes of the course.

The Gators finished 14 strokes over par with a 302 as a team, which landed them in a tie for sixth place after the opening round.

"The course we are playing is tough," Alexander said. "It has a lot of rough. This is going to be a long race, but this team is confident in their ability."

The first Gator to tee off Wednesday afternoon, sophomore Tyson Alexander, recovered well after a double bogey on the second hole. Alexander finished the round with 11 pars and two birdies, which places him in a tie for 40th place on the leaderboard with a three-over 75.

Senior Manuel Villegas shot a four-over 76 and is tied for 23rd. Villegas rebounded from +3 on the front nine and helped the Gators climb in the standings with three birdies in his last five holes.

Junior Will Strickler contributed with a seven-over 79 performance including two birdies to finish in a tie for 87th place heading into the second day of competition.

Senior Tyler Brown began the round strong, making birdies on his first two holes, but struggled a bit on the back nine. Brown bogeyed 15 and 16 and made double bogeys on the final two holes to finish in a tie for 126th place with an 11-over 83.

UF will be paired with Oklahoma State and Clemson once again and will tee off at 7:20 a.m. today.

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