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Friday, January 28, 2022

After Tyson Alexander beat his dad for the first time, he rushed inside the house and turned the monkey.

"I turned the monkey around, and that was all that was said," Tyson recalled with a smile on his face.

That solidified his name in the family tradition.

The ceramic monkey, which was originally a birthday present to his grandfather, Skip, acts as the family trophy.

It is shared among Tyson, his grandfather and his father, UF men's golf coach Buddy Alexander.

The one-foot-tall ceramic monkey sits on a shelf. When Buddy wins, it faces the wall. When Tyson wins, it shows its face.

Along with the trophy, a love for the game of golf has been passed down the bloodline.

That love started with Skip, who played on two USA Ryder Cup teams.

Then it continued to Buddy, the 1986 U.S. Amateur champion.

Now it has reached Tyson, who has played in all but one of the UF men's golf team's tournaments this season.

Who's Your Caddy?

Although golf ran deep in Tyson's blood, it wasn't always the only sport he focused on.

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He split his time between basketball and golf in his freshman and sophomore years at Gainesville's Buchholz High before he abruptly decided to leave the basketball team. Tyson decided to use his junior year as a break from basketball in order to focus on golf.

The break was a short one.

He took a basketball class as a senior, which tempted him to return to the team.

When the Buchholz basketball coach noticed Tyson's eagerness to return to the hardwood, he asked Buddy if Tyson could make a return to the team.

Despite Buddy's preference for golf, he allowed his son to make the decision.

After much deliberation between the two, Tyson decided to juggle the two sports during his final year of high school.

"I don't regret it. It was really fun," he said. "I like being on a team. Sometimes in a golf tournament you miss that."

But in the end, Buddy knew basketball was not in his son's future.

"He loved both sports, and I think early on he understood that he was not going to be a college basketball player, but that he did have a chance to be a pretty decent golfer," Buddy said.

As a two-sport athlete in high school, Tyson built a hard-headed, can-do-no-wrong attitude as one of the big men on the Buchholz campus.

The U.S. Amateur Championship was evidence of that.

Tyson qualified for the prestigious tournament as a high school junior, one of the few events where he was allowed to have a caddy.

He knew his father would assume that role from the start.

In the second round of the tournament, Tyson shot two bogeys on the 10th and 11th holes, putting him in the dispiriting position of not qualifying for match play.

Already bitter from the previous two holes, he discussed his club selection with his caddy on the 12th hole.

After the talk, he took his father's advice and used the lesser club.

As Tyson started his motion and cocked back to hit the ball, his father watched.

The golf club met the ball, but not with enough force. The ball fell short into the bunker, sparking an argument between the two.

"Nice club," Tyson said sarcastically.

Bothered by his son's lack of accountability, Buddy fired back.

"You hit that ball a little bit fat, and if you can't be accountable, then I'm not going to caddy for you," Buddy said. "Do you want to carry your own bag?"

Tyson accepted the offer and finished the round by himself.

After being fired by his son, Buddy refused to follow him, opting to check out some of his recruiting prospects.

Once the round was over, Tyson avoided his dad's reaction to the incident and went back to the hotel with his mother.

The next morning at breakfast, Buddy approached his son to talk about the previous day's events.

Their conversation was short. Before his father could even begin, Tyson admitted he was wrong.

"I hit it fat," he said.

With that four-word sentence, the hard-headed kid who could do no wrong learned how to accept defeat.

Since then, Buddy has attempted to caddy for his son a few more times with more successful results.

Homeward Bound

While most high school seniors look forward to escaping their parents, Tyson never even considered leaving home.

He didn't have to, either.

In his junior year of high school, he participated in the Junior Heritage tournament as an unranked golfer.

Despite Tyson's position as an underdog, he finished in the middle of the pack in a tournament composed of top-ranked players.

These results didn't surprise Buddy, who expected this from his son.

On the drive home from Tyson's impressive performance, Buddy brought up a subject they had avoided so far: college.

"I'm going to have about four or five days where I can take you to take a look at some colleges," Buddy said to Tyson. "I've talked to those coaches about you, and they seem to be interested in having you on their teams, if you want to get out of Gainesville."

In high school, Tyson received letters of interest from various colleges, including Alabama and Tennessee, but he never took an official visit to any school.

"I think that would be a waste of time," Tyson replied.

With that, Buddy had successfully recruited his son. Because Tyson had been around the UF golf program for most of his life, he knew what to expect from his father as soon as he chose to attend.

Even his mother, Jane, never questioned where her son would end up for college.

"Deep down in his mind, he knew that Florida and learning from his dad was where he wanted to be," Jane said. "I think it was always Florida."

After reflecting on the recruitment of his son, Buddy realized he didn't have to officially offer Tyson a spot to sway him to stay in Gainesville. He considers his son the easiest recruit he ever influenced to commit.

While the father-and-son connection might have helped Tyson land at UF, it hasn't helped him since he arrived.

If he didn't call his coach "Dad," no one would be able to tell they were related.

Now finishing up his third year at UF under his father, Tyson said he has never been given any preferential treatment.

Tyson might not admit that Buddy is harder on him than the rest of the golfers on the team, but he will confess that his father isn't easier on him.

His teammate and roommate, Will Strickler, agreed.

"I don't see any favoritism anywhere," Strickler said. "He probably treats him a little tougher, if anything."

While Buddy admits he is a lot more critical of his son than the rest of the team, he doesn't believe it bothers Tyson.

"I can needle with him a little differently, and I know he's going to get it," Buddy said. "That's just a normal father-and-son thing."

Looking Toward the Future

As Tyson works toward a successful future in golf, he says he will carry the past with him.

"I remember growing up, I would always follow my dad around in the Gator Invitational and always want to play in it," he said. "I remember thinking to myself that I could play in this tournament one day, and it's pretty cool that it has come true."

As for the monkey, it is still facing outward, a sign that it's Tyson's turn to continue the family's dominance on the golf course.

At 56 years old, Buddy admits it is only getting harder to contend for the statue.

"It's getting a little tougher for me," Buddy said. "He is getting better, and I'm getting older."

Tyson agreed with his father.

"I'm always going to have it," Tyson said with a smile on his face.

After hearing such assured remarks from his son, Buddy was quick to retract his earlier statement. The Alexander competitiveness prevailed.

"We'll have to see about that," Buddy said.

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