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Friday, May 20, 2022

In 2008, the Gators had national-championship aspirations while winning the Southeastern Conference, but after the season, the team, which was full of seniors, was dismantled.

In stepped the freshmen, and up the ranks went the sophomores.

It was supposed to take time for the No. 24 UF women's golf team to return to national prominence.

But this week in St. George, Utah, something special happened.

After traveling across the country to play on a course they had not seen before, the team finished Wednesday's final round of the BYU Dixie Classic in third place, their best finish of the spring season.

"This Florida women's golf team is back on the map," freshman Andrea Watts said.

The Gators shot a team score of 15 over par Wednesday, pushing their score to 51 over par for the week, nine shots ahead of fourth place. Only Denver (13 over par) and Colorado State (35 over par) finished ahead of the Gators.

While most people did not expect this turnaround to happen so soon, Watts and the team have been waiting for this.

"It means we are moving in the right direction and that we are moving toward what we expected of ourselves," she said.

Watts led the Gators in the event and finished the final round with a score of 7 over par for the tournament. Her individual score was tied for fourth best.

She credits assistant coach Jay Goble for her solid and consistent play during the week.

"Our assistant coach, Jay, spent a lot of time working with me this week," Watts said. "With his help and the ability to feel like I could focus this tournament, I did well."

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Freshman Evan Jensen and sophomore Jessica Yadloczky enjoyed solid final rounds. They both shot 2 over par Wednesday. Jensen finished the event with a score of 14 over par, while Yadloczky ended with a score of 10 over par.

The Gators will look to build off this performance in their next tournament, the Lady Gator Invitational, which will be held in Gainesville beginning April 6.

Watts believes the confidence she received from this tournament is going to help her and the team in their home event.

"For me, this was a huge confidence boost, being able to play this well on such a difficult golf course all the way across the country," she said. "Coming home and playing in a tournament on our own turf should be a cakewalk."

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