The UF men's golf team will open its season in Olympia Fields, Ill., this weekend at the Olympia Fields Country Club/Fighting Illini Invitational.
"Being the first tournament of the year, everyone is excited and ready to go," senior Tyson Alexander said. "We're starting a little later than we did last year, and so everyone is a little bit more anxious. I really don't have any expectations [about how we will perform]. We lost Billy Horschel, who was a first team All-American three years, and now we have no one that's pretty proven like that. I'm just kinda going in with no expectations and seeing how we stack up at the end of the tournament."
Alexander will be teeing off for the Gators, joined by senior Tim McKenney, juniors Andres Echavarria and Bank Vongvanij and sophomore Max Kieffer in the starting lineup.
Coach Buddy Alexander determined which five players would represent UF in the first tournament after the players shot seven qualifying rounds.
Five of the 11 players on the Gators' roster are underclassmen, with three freshmen and two sophomores, but age is not necessarily an indicator of talent.
"They bring a lot to the table. They are really talented. Going into this first qualifier, I don't think anyone knew who was going to qualify. It's that wide open and it will be until we get down to the end of the year," Alexander said. "We have the five that we are going with this week and next week it could be a totally different five; that's how golf works, and that's how young people work. Sometimes they're good one week and inconsistent [the next]. We'll just have to find our best five and keep getting better."
No.9 Florida will face stiff competition from a field featuring seven of the preseason top 12, including No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 3 Georgia and No. 5 Stanford.
"Golf is an individual sport wrapped in a team concept in college, so they all want to beat each other but they also realize that they are all teammates and they support each other," assistant coach Steve Bradley said. "There's no doubt in my mind that they all wanted to beat each other while they were out there."