Florida came away victorious at the Trinity Forest Invitational on Tuesday, but for a while, it didn’t appear as if its triumph was meant to be.
As Round 2 came to a close in Dallas on Monday, Florida was fortunate to even have a share of first place. Star senior Alejandro Tosti lost the lead he held throughout most of the tournament after a bogey-filled back nine, nearly costing the Gators a chance to win.
Florida limped into the final round on Tuesday trying to notch its first victory of the year, despite its loss of momentum.
The Gators faced hardship from the get-go in Dallas. In their first tournament earlier this month, UF relied on Tosti to put up big numbers to counter poor performances from the rest of his teammates.
However, Tosti wasn’t as strong this week, failing to get it going during the final round. He shot 4 over and dropped all the way to a tie for 20th after being tied for sixth heading into Tuesday. Florida could have folded as a result of its leader’s struggles, but it didn’t.
For Gordon Neale, it had been an average tournament after two rounds. He was in the top 25, but was only 1 over par. However, something clicked for the junior on Tuesday.
He posted a career-low 8 under, the lowest score of any golfer in the final round by 3 strokes. He shot 20 spots up the leaderboard, finishing in second place and sealing the Gators first tournament win of the young season with a 10-stroke victory over Auburn and Texas Tech.
“Today was an amazing day for our team,” coach J.C. Deacon said in a release. “We’ve been working so hard to be patient and discipline in the big moments and we did exactly that today.”
Andy Zhang, inserted into the team’s five-man lineup for the first time this season, impressed once again on Tuesday. He was 4 under for the day and moved into a tie for third place, joining Neale in the top five.
“For Gordon and Andy to lead us the way they did today is special,” Deacon said. “They are both going to be integral to our success.”
Freshman Chris Nido had a solid first round and a disastrous second round, but got things under control on the tournament’s final day, shooting even par and moving up to a tie for 29th in the final leaderboard.
The other freshman in the lineup, John Axelsen, played well in the second round, shooting a career-best 70, but he shot a 74 in the final round and fell to a tie for 49th.
While the Gators certainly didn’t get the results they expected out of Tosti in the final two rounds, strong performances from other members of the team should give Deacon’s squad confidence moving forward, especially after taking a piece of hardware back home to Gainesville.
“Wins like today don’t happen too often so I’m going to make sure everyone really enjoys it,” Deacon said. “That was the definition of a team win.”
You can follow Tyler Nettuno on Twitter @TylerNettuno, and contact him at email@example.com.
Gordon Neale crouches during round two of the SunTrust Gator Invitational on Feb. 21, 2016, at the Mark Bostick Golf Course.