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Wednesday, July 06, 2022
<p>J.C. Deacon looks on during the 2016 SunTrust Invitational at the Mark Bostick Golf Course.</p>

J.C. Deacon looks on during the 2016 SunTrust Invitational at the Mark Bostick Golf Course.

Nine top-10 individual finishes, four top-five team finishes, two tournament wins and one individual title.

These are all accolades that came during Florida’s best Fall season under men’s golf coach J.C. Deacon.

The successes culminated in the team’s play at the Tavistock Intercollegiate, where Florida posted its best score under Deacon, a 20-under-par performance that was 11 strokes better than second place.

The end of the Fall season also gave a good indication of who Florida’s main-five golfers will be moving forward: Sam Horsfield, Gordon Neale, Andy Zhang, Alejandro Tosti and Jorge Garcia, the golfers who competed at the Tavistock Intercollegiate.

It was a successful season, so when Deacon walked into a postseason press conference on Monday, he immediately expressed his satisfaction.

“The guys are excited,” he said.

“We played a lot of good golf ... The guys are getting along better than I’ve ever seen. They’re really starting to support each other and become a real team.”

Aside from the success the team experienced as a whole, this season also saw the rise of freshman Andy Zhang.

Zhang, who competed in the 2012 U.S. Open as a 14-year-old, emerged on the scene at UF’s second tournament, the Windon Memorial.

After the first two rounds, he was in contention for first place but ultimately finished sixth.

However, injuries prevented Zhang from playing frequently.

Earlier in the season, Deacon mentioned how the freshman was dealing with a wrist injury that kept him from being at 100 percent, and it showed as he only played in two tournaments this Fall.

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But Deacon was quick to praise Zhang as the missing link this team needed.

“I don’t want to put too much onus on Andy, but to me, he’s kind of the link that we were missing,” Deacon said. “He’s got the most amazing attitude you can ever ask of an 18-year-old kid. He’s always happy, every single day. He’s smiling, he’s joking, never takes anything too seriously, he has a blast with the guys, and he’s as hard of a worker as you’ll ever see.”

But even with the rise of Zhang, one question still remains.

What will happen to the team when Horsfield turns professional?

The Spring season will be Horsfield’s last in a Gator uniform as he begins his professional career, which means that Florida will lose an important player.

Horsfield earned three first place finishes as a freshman.

For the Gators, someone will need to step up, and the Spring will be a good time to show who can fill the void Horsfield’s eventual departure will create.

“You’ll never be able to replace a Sam Horsfield. That’s impossible,” Deacon said.

“We got some special kids coming in, and some people, I think, are going to be up to the challenge. But Sam’s a once-in-a-career player as a coach…He’s special.”

Contact Jake Dreilinger at jdreilinger@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @DreilingerJake.

J.C. Deacon looks on during the 2016 SunTrust Invitational at the Mark Bostick Golf Course.

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