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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The muffled melody of the UF fight song at the nearby softball game rang through the air as Toby Ragland attempted a birdie on the seventh hole of a playoff.

That was as dramatic as it got.

The UF men's golf team led the SunTrust Gator Invitational from start to finish and shot 16 under par for the weekend, 18 shots ahead of second-place Mississippi.

The win marks the Gators' sixth consecutive home tournament victory.

"We just feel like this is our house, and we feel like we all play good here," Ragland said. "So we don't feel like anybody else should beat us."

Contrary to most golf tournaments, the drama did not come until after the first-place team had already been determined.

Ragland, UF's Billy Horschel and Central Florida's Simon Ward were tied for first after three rounds at 5 under par.

They played seven holes of playoff golf to determine the individual winner of the tournament. Ward was eliminated from the playoff after the third hole. Ragland eventually beat Horschel with a birdie on the seventh hole, his first win in a college tournament as an individual.

"I just kept trying to hit good shots, and that was really fun pulling it off," Ragland said. "It was fun playing Billy in the playoff."

Coach Buddy Alexander enjoyed watching him complete his first college victory.

"When a guy is your hardest worker and you see it work out for him, it's pretty cool," Alexander said.

The playoff between the two UF golfers left their coach in a tough position.

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"That was awkward. I've never done that before," he said. "That's like Urban coaching the Orange and the Blue."

UF juniors Tim McKenney and Tyson Alexander were the only other Gators to finish in the red for the tournament. McKenney ended the Gator Invitational at 3 under par, while Alexander shot 2 under par.

Will Strickler was the only Gator who struggled. He scored above par in each of the three rounds and finished at 6 over par.

The Gators will be back on the golf course Feb. 27 at the Puerto Rico Invitational.

Coach Alexander believes this victory was a step in the right direction, but a victory in Puerto Rico would be a gigantic step.

"Now if we go to Puerto Rico and win, I'll be one happy soldier," he said.

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