This weekend, the Florida men's golf team will compete in the Gary Koch Invitational, co-hosted by Kentucky and Auburn in Tampa on the par-72 Old Memorial Golf Course.
The No. 8 Gators are entering this tournament as the best-ranked squad on the green, but the ranking seems meaningless to the team.
"It's still early in the year, and I don't think that anyone in this field has proven themselves to be a front-runner…I don't think that we are the favorites, I don't think that we should have any added pressure, I think that we should just play golf," senior Tyson Alexander said.
Florida will compete in the 54-hole tournament with Alexander, junior Andres Echavarria and sophomore Max Kieffer. Echavarria and Kieffer are coming off their first event of the 2009-10 season with their first top-five and top-ten finishes, respectively.
"Max and Andres are in the same place. They have the opportunity to make substantial improvements and maybe move to a different level of player," UF coach Buddy Alexander said.
Freshmen Tyler McCumber and Phillip Choi, making their first appearances for UF, will round out the lineup.
"It's always exciting to see your freshmen get in a tournament, especially this early in the year," Alexander said. "I'm just excited to see how they are going to do and how they are going to handle it. They are definitely both talented."
The younger Gators competing this weekend have an impressive resume that will provide the team with experience and skill.
Choi, who was ranked third by the Junior Golf Scoreboard, was selected for the 2008 Canon Cup team. He finished as runner-up at the 2008 Ringgold Telephone Company Junior Classic and fourth at the Footjoy Invitational.
McCumber was ranked 18th in the Junior Gold Scoreboard rankings and finished in the top 10 at both the Westfield Junior PGA Championship and the Scott Roberson Memorial in 2008; he tied for eighth and ninth, respectively.
"This tournament is exciting from the standpoint that it's not the first tournament of the year, but it is first tournament of the year for those two freshmen and it's the first tournament of their career," coach Alexander said. "As a coach, you want to know if these guys are going to be gamers or if they are going to be qualifiers."
Junior Bank Vongvanij is competing as an individual at the Invitational.
"We only lost by eight [strokes] in a pretty good field [at the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Championship], and outside of Andres and Max, who played great, I wouldn't say that anyone else had a really good round," Alexander said. "Finishing sixth is never positive, but I think we realized how close we were and I don't think we played our best and I think that's something we can look forward to improving on."
Florida will be facing competition from ranked teams such as Florida State, Auburn, North Carolina, North Florida, Texas Tech and Virginia.