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Tuesday, December 07, 2021
<p>Elin Esborn finished in fifth place in the Ocean Course Invitational after shooting 2 under par in the tournament.</p>

Elin Esborn finished in fifth place in the Ocean Course Invitational after shooting 2 under par in the tournament.

After two rounds of play at the Ocean Course Invitational, the Gators found themselves in a disappointing sixth place. It was a rough and windy afternoon at the future site of the 2021 PGA Championship, and for Florida, it was not the start to the season that it had hoped for.

“Starting the first round, everyone’s got first-round jitters,” assistant coach Janice Olivencia said. “You really just don’t know what to expect.”

This result, however, likely could have been expected. The veteran-heavy team that won the SEC title last season has undergone a big-time makeover. That team had four seniors and one junior providing leadership. Now, those four seniors are gone and only Taylor Tomlinson, the lone junior last year, remains on the roster.

Aside from Tomlinson, the roster is comprised of only underclassmen. Florida knew that it needed to find production from several of those young golfers, and needed to find it fast.

The Gators seem to have found it in rising star Elin Esborn. She was 2 under in the second round and even in the final round, and her strong performances led the Gators to an eventual tie for third place.

“I think (Esborn) was great,” Olivencia said. “She is a competitor; she just wants to play. She’s not afraid to go out there and post a number.”

Moving forward, the key for the Gators will be to build on some of the positives that they saw at their season-opening tournament in Charleston, South Carolina.

“The opener was kind of an eye-opener for us coaches, coach Emily (Glaser) and I,” Olivencia said. “We can see all the great things that are out there, our strengths, and how to make those better.”

If the Gators hope to defend their SEC title this year, they will need to improve in their consistency and cultivate their young talent. At the same time, they also need to see stronger scores from Tomlinson. Her final campaign with the Gators began in lackluster fashion, turning in an 80 in the final round of play and finishing 50th.

While defending a title is certainly in the back of the minds of the golfers, the Florida coaches said it does not affect their preparation or their mindset.

“I think we have to trust in the process, trust that when it comes to the conference championship, that’s a long way from now, at the end of April,” Olivencia said. “The important thing is to focus on the day and figuring things out, making sure that we build, that we’re doing the little things. And when it comes to that week, we’ll get ready to battle.”

The first tournament shed light on some areas that need to be improved, but it also gave glimmers of hope for the Gators. They saw two freshmen, Esborn and Addie Baggarly, both place in the top 20, with Esborn at fifth and Baggarly at 20th. The progression of these young golfers will be key for the Gators in the future.

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When asked about how far she thinks this team can go, Olivencia was candid.

“It’s up to them. I think in our opinion as coaches, the sky is the limit,” she said.

Florida will be back in action again on Saturday as it travels to Norman, Oklahoma, for the Schooner Fall Classic.

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

Elin Esborn finished in fifth place in the Ocean Course Invitational after shooting 2 under par in the tournament.

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