The No. 11 Florida men’s golf team needed to have a big day on Thursday to have any hope of advancing to match play following a tough first day of the SEC Championship at the Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
The Gators did just that. After shooting 13 over on the first day of the tournament, Florida shot 2 under on Thursday, moving up from 12th to eighth on the leaderboard. That puts the team two strokes clear of ninth-place Texas A&M and Georgia.
“Championship teams have to finish rounds off. We did that today,” coach J.C. Deacon said in a release. “I'm really happy. Today was a good step and we'll have to have a good afternoon of preparation and be ready to go again tomorrow morning.”
Only the top eight teams in stroke play advance to match play. With his team still far from safe entering the last day of stroke play, Deacon knows the Gators need to keep their focus.
"We just have to have a good afternoon of prep and rest up. Great players find a way to play well on the biggest days and we have a bunch of great players,” Deacon said.
Sophomore Andy Zhang, who has paced the Gators on both days, shot a 2-under-par 68 on Thursday and moved into a tie for seventh place on the individual leaderboard with an overall of score of 1 under par, just four strokes off the lead.
Every single Gator improved on his first-round score on Thursday. Freshman John Axelsen, junior Gordon Neale and senior Alejandro Tosti all shot even par after shooting over par on Wednesday. Freshman Chris Nido improved by seven strokes, but is still in last place at 13 over.
Florida’s quest for a match-play berth begins Friday when they tee off at 7:30 a.m. in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
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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.