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Tuesday, December 07, 2021
<p>UF head coach JC Deacon holds a scorecard during the 2017 Gator Invitational. Deacon and the Gators head to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the National Championship.</p>

UF head coach JC Deacon holds a scorecard during the 2017 Gator Invitational. Deacon and the Gators head to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the National Championship.

This week has been an encouraging one for the Gators men’s golf team.

Florida entered the Trinity Forest Invitational in Dallas looking for production outside of its team leader, Alejandro Tosti, and it found it.

Before the tournament, coach J.C. Deacon expressed frustration with his players and decided to shake things up with his lineup.

Deacon inserted sophomore Andy Zhang into the five-man rotation, and it paid dividends for the Gators, as they earned their first victory of the year.

Florida hasn’t announced its starting lineup for the upcoming Nike Collegiate Invitational in North Plains, Oregon, but it seems like a safe bet it’ll include Zhang, who finished in the top five in his first appearance of the season.

Florida will also look to its upperclassmen, Tosti and Gordon Neale, to have a strong performance in the tournament.

Tosti was the only UF golfer to play consistently well when he won the Carpet Capital Invitational earlier this month.

However, he struggled toward the end of Day 2 and all of Day 3 this week in Dallas, surrendering his spot atop the leaderboard and dropping to a tie for 20th. He will look to bounce back as the Gators head out west this weekend.

Neale, on the other hand, is coming off a career-best round where he shot 8 under and ended the day finishing second on the leaderboard.

The junior has had an up-and-down career so far for the Gators, but if he can play anywhere near the level he played at in Dallas, it could bode very well for Florida moving forward.

The tournament in Oregon will also present another opportunity for the freshmen Chris Nido and John Axelsen to settle in.

Nido struggled in Round 2 this week, but was solid in the first and final rounds. Axelsen did the opposite, struggling through Day 1 and Day 3, but shot a career-best score of 70 on the second day.

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The next time the Gators take to the course, they will have additional coaching help on the sidelines.

Florida announced on Thursday morning that former UF and PGA Tour golfer Dudley Hart has joined the team as a volunteer assistant coach.

Hart is a 2003 UF Hall of Fame inductee and was a four-time All-American. As a professional, he notched two PGA Tour victories at the 1996 RBC Canadian Open and the 2000 Honda Classic.

“Dudley has spent his entire adult life around the best players in the world. That knowledge is a game changer for our student-athletes,” Deacon said in a release. “More importantly than his on-course achievements, Dudley is an amazing person. He is a passionate family man and fits seamlessly into our up-beat culture. We are so grateful to have Dudley join us and appreciate his generous support.”

Hart’s experience and knowledge could prove valuable for a Gators team with high hopes for this season.

So far, Florida hasn’t been able to put together strong performances from both Tosti and the rest of the team, but the potential that Florida’s young golfers flashed last weekend should please Deacon moving forward.

Florida will look to achieve this consistency as the first round begins in Oregon on Sunday.

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

UF head coach JC Deacon holds a scorecard during the SunTrust Gator Invitational on Feb. 18, 2017, at the Mark Bostic Golf Course.

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