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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Gators are focused.

So focused, in fact, that coach Buddy Alexander had no clue his team was named Golfweek's Team of the Week on February 16.

"I didn't even know that," Alexander said. "I guess I haven't checked out my new Golfweek this week."

This is the type of mentality the No. 5 UF men's golf team will need as it heads to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to play in the Puerto Rico Invitational this weekend.

The team will be joined by three of the other top-five teams: No. 2 Georgia, No. 3 Oklahoma State and No. 4 Alabama.

Coach Alexander believes this tournament gives the Gators a perfect opportunity to look in the mirror and find out who they really are.

"We are going to get to play some of the better teams in the country and get a chance to see where we are," he said.

With two first-place finishes to open the spring season, an aura of overconfidence has the potential of seeping into the team's psyche.

But Alexander is not worried.

"We are nowhere near where we want to be in the rankings, so we've got plenty of room for improvement," he said. "So we are not going over there with an overconfident attitude that I'm worried about in any way."

One thing UF can be confident about is its advantage in the short game in Puerto Rico.

The event will be played on Bermuda greens, which the Gators play on year-round. Most of the teams in the field do not have this luxury and are more accustomed to playing on bent-grass greens.

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"When you grow up over these greens, typically you're inclined to be a little more comfortable on them than guys who grew up on bent-grass greens," Alexander said.

The five golfers who will represent UF this weekend are Toby Ragland, Billy Horschel, Tim McKenney, Tyson Alexander and Mu Hu.

Three of the five Gators in the lineup grew up in Florida and have spent most of their lives playing on Bermuda greens.

If UF can use this advantage to help it toward another first-place finish, it will eclipse the two previous tournament wins.

"A win, in my opinion, would really be a statement to this team that we are ready to compete with almost everybody," Alexander said.

For a team composed mostly of juniors and seniors, this is the opportunity they have been waiting for.

"We are ready to play some of the better teams in the country," Alexander said.

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