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Friday, December 01, 2023

This time, the UF men's golf team put itself in a hole it couldn't play out of.

Though the third round was the team's best when you take all five golfers' scores into account, the team failed to move up on the leaderboard at the Preview Invitational in Toledo, Ohio.

Instead, the Gators settled for a ninth-place finish out of 15 teams on Tuesday.

"We did get off to a poor start again today," coach Buddy Alexander said. "That was nice to see us bounce back and play solidly the last nine holes of the tournament and keep fighting."

For the second straight round, no golfer was able to score in the red, and the best individual finish was an even-par 71 by Andres Echavarria.

Echavarria's 3-under par in the first round was the Gators' lone below-par score in the whole tournament.

His tournament total of 5-over par landed him in a tie for 21st.

"I was pretty proud of my performance for those first and third rounds," Echavarria said. "I knew I was capable of playing that well. Obviously, I haven't played to my potential yet. I think I'm getting closer to playing a lot better golf. The more you compete, the more comfortable you get in those situations."

Echavarria said he's hoping to make the most of this tournament for future competition.

"The more tournaments I play in," he said, "the better I'll be off."

Though no member of the team was able to shoot under par in the third round, the Gators had their best round overall. UF shot the same score as in round one, a 7-over-par 291, but no player on the five-man rotation shot more than three strokes over par.

Tyson Alexander and Mu Hu both shot 2-over par and Billy Horschel and Toby Ragland finished at 3-over par.

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Ragland's consistent play - 3-over par in the first round, even par in the second round and 3-over again in the third - earned him a tie for 24th as he notched the second best finish for the Gators.

"I don't really think that anyone really played awful," coach Alexander said. "It's just that no one played particularly well. We just didn't have a lot of good happen this week."

UF will have to forget about this ninth-place finish when it comes back in the spring to compete in the NCAA Championships, which will be played at the same Inverness Club.

Morgan Hoffman of Oklahoma State started the day in first and ended up sharing first place with Tennessee's Robin Wingardh. They finished the tournament shooting 6-under par.

Oklahoma State won the tournament collectively with a team score of 843, 9-over par.

The Gators are off until Oct. 13, when the Duke Coca-Cola Individual Collegiate in Durham, N.C., starts up.

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