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Saturday, January 22, 2022

UF men's golf coach Buddy Alexander called some of them "trainwrecks."

That's probably an accurate description of a final round where your team shot +27.

And that's why your coach was quite disappointed. The Gators, ranked No. 6 going into NCAAs, finished a humbling 11th Saturday at the national championships. But at least UF - sans seniors Tyler Brown and Manuel Villegas - get to come back next year and try again. And at least they now know what not to do.

"The kids we've got have to learn from this," Alexander said. "This team needs to be tougher mentally. I don't think anybody quit."

But this year's championship round certainly will be a sour spot in their minds for a long time.

"[The last round] was a disappointing day," Alexander said. "We didn't play well, with the exception of Billy [Horschel]."

As he almost always does, Horschel came up with at least a decent showing. UF's two-time All-American junior finished sixth overall with a score of seven over 295. He led the day after the second round, but like all his other teammates, the final round wasn't as pretty. He still, however, shot four birdies and five par shots in the final round. And if he had been more consistent, he probably would have earned a top-five finish. Horschel never fell below 10th while at West Lafayette, Ind.

"You certainly can't blame him," Alexander said of UF's lone bright spot.

But you can blame some of the others, unfortunately for the Gators.

Tyson Alexander was the team's next top finisher as he tied for 43rd. Alexander had a decent first and second round, shooting 75 and 74, but fell apart later on in the tournament. He had a score of 80 in the third and 78 on the final day of competition. He finished +17.

Brown, one of the few seniors who had been doing well, fell apart in his last collegiate action. He didn't have a round below 76, and started out in the back of the pack with a score of 83. Brown finished in a very disappointing tie for 73rd.

"We didn't play particularly well on the front nine," Alexander said of the play in the final round. "It was a humbling day. I didn't do a great job of coaching."

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Humbling indeed.

Villegas finished tied for 50th while going +20, and Will Strickler ended the tournament 63rd with a +24.

UCLA won the national title, holding off second-place Stanford by just one stroke. Southern California was just one stroke behind the Cardinal. The Bruins also won the individual title as Kevin Chappell finished an impressive -2 throughout the four-round tournament.

Going into next season the Gators will still have Horschel and will have gained experience too, as Alexander will be a junior and Strickler will be a senior.

UF had an up-and-down fall, but was more consistent in the spring. The Gators beat FSU in a dual meet and finished tied for second at the Southeastern Conference Championships. They just scraped by at the Regional Championships, finishing tied for fourth and earning an NCAA bid.

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