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Friday, January 28, 2022

Imagine going to play a round of golf without your custom-made, high-end driver.

That's how the UF men's golf team may feel today in Atlantic City, N.J., for the team's last tournament of the fall, the Galloway National Invitational.

The team will be missing three-time All-American Billy Horschel, who is missing because of his play this past weekend in the 2008 World Amateur Team Championships in Adelaide, Australia.

Coach Buddy Alexander sees not having Horschel as a blessing rather than a curse.

"I'm taking some guys that need experience, and by virtue of the fact that (Horschel's) not there, I'm going to get to see an extra player," Alexander said.

The Horschel-less lineup will consist of Tyson Alexander, Will Strickler, Mu Hu, Toby Ragland and, for the first time this season, Tim McKenney. McKenney, who makes his team-tournament debut, finished second at the Duke Individual Collegiate earlier this month.

The Gators can find solace in knowing that this isn't the toughest field they will face this season.

"It's not a particularly good field," Alexander said. "It's a field we can win, even without Billy (Horschel). We do have a tendency to rely on Billy (Horschel) a little more than we should, and we're not going to be able to do that this tournament. So yeah, I'm looking for a couple of guys to step up."

Tyson Alexander said a win without Horschel would boost confidence.

"It would be good (to win), especially without Billy, to prove to ourselves that we can do it without him," he said. "And when he gets back in the lineup then we'll be even better."

It may also help morale if the team can perform well on a course it's never seen before. But Alexander said a new course wouldn't even be the biggest hurdle.

"I don't think it'll be that big a deal, because we'll get a practice round in," he said. "But it is going to be cold, and that's something we're not used to right now. It should be pretty chilly, so that'll take some getting used to."

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With temperatures this morning in Atlantic City hovering around the upper 30s to low 40s with a high of 59 degrees, the team will certainly experience a difference in weather.

Whether it's the climate, not having Horschel or just playing on a new course, coach Alexander knows what to expect from his team.

"Fifty-four holes is a good barometer of what you've got," he said. "And if we don't get off to a perfect start, I still think we'll be able to come back and play well."

Women get back on the course

After nearly a month off, the UF women's golf team will have to shake the dust from its tournament clubs today for the start of The Landfall in Wilmington, N.C.

It's a first-time affair for the women's team.

Being the lone representative of the Southeastern Conference, the Gators will take the same lineup that competed a month ago.

The team will be led by freshman Evan Jensen, who's been the best finisher at both tournaments the team has competed in this year.

Joining Jensen will be Jessica Yadloczky, Hannah Yun, Andrea Watts and Brittany Nelson.

The field of play should bode well for the team. No. 23 UF enters the tournament ranked third-best among participating teams and only trails No. 9 Wake Forest and No. 13 North Carolina.

With the season winding down, the Gators will look to improve as a team and rebound from 14th- and 10th-place finishes.

Coach Jill Briles-Hinton said she expects the monthlong hiatus to pay dividends.

"What I like about the month off is now we can put into play what we've been working on and see purpose," she said.

She mentioned that the month off has allowed the women's team to work on its short game, the team's Achilles' heel.

"It's not the best short-game team I've ever had, but it's one of the best ball-striking teams I've ever had," she said.

With an improved short game, she said the team could be dangerous.

Unfortunately, the youth factor of two sophomores, two freshmen and a senior with limited tournament play may be a hindrance.

"This team wants to win sooner but they know in order to do it, they have to take it one shot at a time," Briles-Hinton said. "That's what youth does. Sometimes they get ahead of themselves."

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