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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Much like a baby learning how to walk, the inexperienced UF women's golf team stumbled to the ground in its first event of the season.

Now it's time for the team to pick itself up.

After a mediocre performance at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge in Palos Verdes, Calif., the team will travel to South Carolina on Sunday to play in the Kiawah Island Intercollegiate.

"We have been working really hard since California, and we have learned a lot and spent a lot of time working on our game mentally," freshman Andrea Watts said.

In Palos Verdes, UF faced some of the best teams in the nation. In this tournament, the roles are switched.

The No. 29 Gators will be the highest-ranked team participating in the event.

"We've faced the best in California and we placed in the middle of the pack," she said. "Now we are going to South Carolina, where we are one of the top-ranked teams out there, so obviously that is going to be a big confidence boost for us."

A win for the Gators will not come easily, however.

The course is next to the ocean, so wind is expected.

"Any time we play on a new course, there are obviously certain challenges to overcome," Watts said.

To prepare for those challenges, the team has made an adjustment to the way it practices.

Instead of practicing at the driving range, UF has been practicing on the golf course.

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"I think the best way to prepare for a tournament is to just go out there and play like you would when you're in a tournament setting," she said. "I think we are all going to benefit from playing more than we give it credit for."

Sophomore standout Jessica Yadloczky agrees.

"When you get on the course, you are picking out targets and you're scoring," Yadloczky said. "That's the most important part of the game."

UF is hoping a lineup of Evan Jensen, Watts, Yadloczky and Nicole Schachner will lead them to a victory in South Carolina. The fifth and final spot in the lineup has not been determined.

After the competition they faced in Palos Verdes, the young Gators have seen the best that college golf has to offer. The Gators will attempt to use that to their advantage in South Carolina as they try to dust themselves off and pick themselves up off the ground.

"We've seen what we have to fight against," Yadloczky said.

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