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<p>Sam Horsfield watches his ball roll toward the cup during Day 1 of the SunTrust Gator Invitational on Feb. 20, 2016, at the Mark Bostick Golf Course.</p>

Sam Horsfield watches his ball roll toward the cup during Day 1 of the SunTrust Gator Invitational on Feb. 20, 2016, at the Mark Bostick Golf Course.

Back in October, Florida golfer Gordon Neale received a text.

It contained an old picture from his dad of 10-year-old Neale at a tournament.

Alongside Neale were two other people, a golfer and his dad.

That golfer?

His future roommate and UF teammate Sam Horsfield.

“It’s crazy to look back, you know?” Horsfield said. “We’re both not even five-feet tall and we’re whacking it around.

“I’ve known Gordon for a long time.”

They have, but for most of the time, it was on a competitive level.

Horsfield lived in Florida, while Neale was across the country in California.

The three time zones separating the two meant they only competed together in a handful of tournaments every year.

When they crossed paths, Horsfield and Neale would greet each other on the greens, but that was where the formalities ended.

Each would try to prove he was better than the other.

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They didn’t know each other as well then, and at the time, it seemed as if their relationship would remain on the greens.

But once both players came to Florida, their friendship quickly became what it is now: one formed by their love of golf.

“When we got to school, we kinda found out we were similar,” Neale said. “We like the same music, we like to do the same things and we kinda ended up going to dinner together and playing together. We became best friends.”

• • •

It was the first long weekend of the semester, which meant the men’s golf team’s first break from practice.

Horsfield was planning on going back to his home in Davenport for a few days when he noticed Neale was going to be staying in Gainesville.

Horsfield asked Neale to join him, and their friendship began.

“I don’t really know how to describe it,” Horsfield said. “My parents, they didn’t care about him coming and staying at my house.”

For Neale, the Horsfield household became like a second home, and their relationship began to flourish. It extended beyond just living together and grabbing an occasional meal.

Rather, it turned into the two becoming best friends, spending time playing rounds on the Mark Bostick Golf Course in Gainesville and hanging out with their roommates in the common area of their dorm.

“It just kinda grew. It wasn’t one specific thing that we became boys,” Horsfield said. “It was just kinda a lot of little things.”

Little things like eating at the dining halls nearly every night, spending time listening to their music while studying, and putting in countless hours on the greens together made them closer.

And from bonding over their shared interests, they learned how much their personalities mesh and how much they feed off each other on the golf course.

“Sometimes it’s a little frustrating because (Horsfield’s) so lazy and never practices,” Neale said. “But he never needs to because he rolls out of bed and shoots 65.”

For Horsfield, that natural talent on the greens showed early. In his first year at Florida, he won three tournaments and earned five other top-five finishes.

This fall, Horsfield grabbed two top-10 finishes in four tournaments, something he said he wants to improve upon come spring.

Meanwhile, Neale emerged as a late leader of the golf team at the end of his freshman year.

During his time at Florida, he nabbed three top-five finishes, including a fourth-place finish at the Southeastern Conference Championship in the Spring.

In his first tournament, the Mason Rudolph Championship, he finished second behind Horsfield, a fitting testament to just how much time they practiced together and how much better they make each other.

“Playing with him a lot really helped my golf game,” Neale said. “Personally, I think he’s one of the top-50 golfers in the world right now, professionals included.”

• • •

Neale and Horsfield were competing at the 2014 Junior Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach in their last year on the amateur circuit before leaving for college.

At the time, Horsfield was committed to Florida. Neale was still looking around.

But between rounds at the Junior Players, the two golfers began talking, reigniting a moment from nearly seven years prior that started Neale on the path to enrolling at Florida.

“(Horsfield) and his dad and my dad and me were all talking, and they apparently said some really nice things to the coaches about me,” Neale said.

Horsfield generated some interest for Neale at Florida, and soon UF offered Neale a scholarship.

And just like their relationship outside of golf, the duo was nearly inseparable on the greens.

“He’s playing unbelievable,” Neale said.

“Having a guy like that to play with every day and compare yourself to and see what he’s doing with his game that you could be doing to yours, it helps a lot.”

They practice together nearly every day and help improve each other’s play.

And it shows, as both have emerged as team leaders, consistently finishing the best among Florida’s five golfers. The improved results are a testament to their chemistry.

“For him to come here and push me … it has really helped my game out and (helped me) see where I need to improve,” Horsfield said.

“I keep him in check and he keeps me in check.”

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

Sam Horsfield watches his ball roll toward the cup during Day 1 of the SunTrust Gator Invitational on Feb. 20, 2016, at the Mark Bostick Golf Course.

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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