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Wednesday, January 19, 2022
<p>Freshman Gordon Neale hits a ball during Day 2 of the SunTrust Gator Invitational on Feb. 21, 2016, at the Mark Bostic Golf Course. </p>

Freshman Gordon Neale hits a ball during Day 2 of the SunTrust Gator Invitational on Feb. 21, 2016, at the Mark Bostic Golf Course. 

Entering the Mason Rudolph Championship, Florida coach J.C. Deacon said that Gordon Neale’s talent was never the issue. His mind was always the issue.

That certainly wasn’t the case on Saturday.

Neale, who last competed as a part of the Gators’ lineup at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Collegiate Challenge in September, made easy work of the Vanderbilt Legends Club.

7,100 yards of sloping fairways and tree-lined holes did little to stop the freshman. Playing 36 holes on Saturday, Neale fired rounds of 1-under 70 and 3-under 68 to finish the day at 4 under par, giving him a two-shot lead entering Sunday’s final round.

Neale’s 68 in Round 2, the best round of his career at Florida, featured four birdies and only one bogey.

Meanwhile, as a team, No. 7 Florida sits in second place with a 1-over 569, only three shots back of No. 5 Vanderbilt’s 2-under 566.

Just under Neale on the leaderboard is a familiar name.

After consecutive 70s in Rounds 1 and 2, freshman Sam Horsfield ended the day in a tie for second with Vanderbilt’s Will Gordon. Horsfield, who has shot under par in six of his last eight rounds, will tee off on Sunday looking to capture his third individual victory of his career. His last win came at the Southern Highlands Collegiate on March 9.

“Our guys just kind of hung around all day,” Deacon said in a release. “Sam and Gordon obviously led us scoring-wise, but all five guys contributed. It was just a really, really good team effort.”

After Neale and Horsfield, however, no other Gators ended the day in the top 15.

Jorge Garcia had two bogeys and one birdie on his way to a 1-over 72 in the opening round. Things didn’t get much better for the freshman in Round 2. After a 1-under 34 on the front nine, Garcia limped his way into the club house with five bogeys on the back nine, carding a 3-over 74 in the second round, giving him a share of 20th at 4 over.

Garcia, who has been struggling with his swing for much of the Spring season, has failed to break par in eight-consecutive rounds.

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After rounds of 73 and 74, junior Ryan Orr ended the day in a share of 28th place. Sophomore Alejandro Tosti, who did not play in Florida’s last tournament, ended Saturday with rounds of 71 and 78. He sits in a tie for 36th.  

Deacon’s team will enter the final 18 holes looking to capture its first victory since February at the Sea Best Invitational. The Gators will have to overcome Vanderbilt and fight off No. 4 Alabama to do so.

Deacon said he’s looking forward to seeing Neale compete for what would be the first victory of his collegiate career.

“To be honest, this is probably one of the greatest moments that has ever happened to me as a coach today,” Deacon said of Neale. “He never asked for anything. He always wanted to earn it. … He’s really worked hard through some incredible obstacles, and I hope he goes out and wins it (Sunday).”

Contact Ray Boone at rboone@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @rboone1994.

Freshman Gordon Neale hits a ball during Day 2 of the SunTrust Gator Invitational on Feb. 21, 2016, at the Mark Bostic Golf Course. 

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