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Tuesday, December 07, 2021
<p>Sophomore Andy Zhang is tied for first heading into the final day of the NCAA Kissimmee Regional. He's at 8 under with freshman John Axelsen just behind him at 7 under. </p>

Sophomore Andy Zhang is tied for first heading into the final day of the NCAA Kissimmee Regional. He's at 8 under with freshman John Axelsen just behind him at 7 under. 

Coach J.C. Deacon’s decision to stick Andy Zhang into the UF men’s golf team’s starting lineup is paying off, as Florida is tied for the lead with one round to go at the Trinity Forest Invitational in Dallas.

Zhang, a sophomore, came out of nowhere to be in the top 10 through two rounds, tying for eighth. Alejandro Tosti, who finished atop the leaderboard in the season’s first tournament, held the lead heading into the back nine on Monday, and Florida had a lead over Auburn. However, Tosti bogeyed five of his final six holes and fell to a tie for sixth. These late bogeys cost Florida enough strokes that Auburn was eventually able to tie Florida at the top of the leaderboard.

"Today was another solid day for our team but, it was very different than yesterday,” Deacon said in a release. “This morning, we started off very well but, finished poorly. A round like today challenges your mental toughness as it pushes you to only remember the negative finish. It's our job to see and grow from the many positives we had today too."

Still, the team played better as a whole, with Gordon Neale currently in a tie for 22nd. Gators freshman Chris Nido was 3 under after one round, but shot a horrid 6 over on Monday, dropping him down to a tie for 37th.

John Axelsen, the other freshman, had a nice bounce-back round Monday, shooting 1 under. Going into the final round, he is tied for 47th.

"I am also very pleased for our freshman, John Axelsen,” Deacon said. “His round of 70 today was his best as a Gator to date. He's going to be a cornerstone of our future and we saw a small piece of that today."

Florida will attempt to hold onto its first place position in Tuesday’s final round.

"We are tied for the lead with 18 holes to go,” Deacon said. “You can't ask for any more than that. Tomorrow is exactly the type of opportunity we practice and prepare so hard for."

Women’s golf:

It was a weekend of ups and downs at the Schooner Fall Classic. On one hand, Florida was able to finish third for the second straight tournament. On the other hand, senior Taylor Tomlinson, who was in the top 10 after the first two rounds, struggled once again in Monday’s final round, shooting 2 over and finishing in a tie for 26th.

Tomlinson struggled in the first tournament as well, and Florida hoped her score of 3 under on Friday was a sign of her improvement, but she regressed throughout the rest of the tournament.

Tomlinson wasn’t the only Gator who struggled in the final two rounds in Oklahoma. Elin Esborn made a name for herself in the previous tournament and she came out of the gate playing well this weekend, shooting 1 under on Friday. However, she shot back-to-back 3 over rounds on Sunday and Monday, finishing in a tie for 39th.

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"It was sort of a tale of two nines,” coach Emily Glaser said. “We didn't start well and you could sort of feel that the energy was down. But, I'm really proud of how the girls rebounded and fought and turned the day into something respectable. I don't think anyone is overly happy, obviously there is quite a spread in the scores that we shot this week and the first-place team.”

However, Florida’s tournament was salvaged by an impressive – and unexpected – performance on Monday from sophomore Marta Perez. She had problems through the first two rounds of the tournament, but put together a 5 under final round, the third best finish of any golfer Norman on Monday, and she surged up the leaderboard to an eventual share of ninth place.

"Marta had a great round today and I'm really happy for her,” Glaser said. “That is the type of player she is, she can do that every time she tees it up. She is committed to learning and getting better and I think she gained some important knowledge today."

Freshman Addie Baggarly shot 3 over on Friday, but bounced back with 1 under scores on Sunday and Monday, finishing tied for 26th, and Carlotta Ricolfi was consistent throughout the weekend and finished tied for 33rd.

While a third-place finish is nothing to scoff at, disappointing final rounds served to damper what looked to be a promising tournament.

“My hope is it motivates us and opens our eyes because I have no doubt we have the physical talent,” Glaser said. “We just need to learn when and how to manage it."

You can follow Tyler Nettuno on Twitter @TylerNettuno, and contact him at tnettuno@alligator.org.

Sophomore Andy Zhang is tied for first heading into the final day of the NCAA Kissimmee Regional. He's at 8 under with freshman John Axelsen just behind him at 7 under. 

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