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Thursday, October 28, 2021
Sierra Brooks

Junior Sierra Brooks (pictured) finished second on the team at the Windy City Classic and 14th overall at 2 over. She and Marta Perez (-2) led the UF women to a fourth place finish at the event. 

The Gators saw their season end on Sunday at the NCAA Championships in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

The team had a season full of high and low points but ultimately should consider its 2017-18 year successful based on its relative lack of experience.

The year in highlights:

Ocean Course Invitational

Elin Esborn came out swinging in Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

In the first official tournament of her Florida career, the redshirt freshman scorched the Ocean Course Invitational in September 2017 en route to a finish in fifth place.

The Gators finished in third out of 17 teams and their consistency showed, with three golfers finishing between 20th and 23rd.

The Landfall Tradition

The cold in Wilmington, North Carolina, got to Florida as it hit a low point with the Landfall Tradition in late October.

Out of 18 teams, the Gators finished 13th and struggled to get anything going in their worst tournament of the fall.

Coach Emily Glaser acknowledged the team’s toils in the event.

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“This is part of our journey and an important learning day,” Glaser said in a release.

Florida’s spring would prove to be much more fruitful.

Florida Challenge

Sierra Brooks burst onto the scene after a rough end to her career at Wake Forest and quickly established her dominance in the Florida Challenge in Lecanto, Florida, in late January.

Brooks paced the field with a 6 under and won the individual event while helping UF to a tough runner-up finish to Miami. From that point, Brooks became the team’s go-to golfer.

Allstate Sugar Bowl

Another day, another title for Brooks. With a 7 under, she ran away from the pack en route to another win. Moreover, the Gators would finally find a breakthrough for a team championship. The Gators’ score of 9 over scorched the second-place USC Trojans’ card of 18 over.

SunTrust Gator Invitational

The Gators enjoyed playing on their home course in March as they sprinted away with a win and a new record in the SunTrust Gator Invitational in Gainesville.

Their final score of even par was the best in the event’s 46-year history, blowing away the old record set in 2017 by seven strokes.

Brooks finished runner-up, Esborn in third, Perez tied for fifth and no Gator competing for the team finished worse than 18th.

It was a solid display of golf, and the team looked comfortable – Esborn commented that being on your home course helps.

Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic

A month later, the team fell apart in Athens, Georgia, in its final regular-season tune-up match for the SEC Tournament. Out of 12 teams in the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic, UF finished in 10th.

Brooks led the team with a score of even and an 11th place finish, but none of her teammates finished better than 25th and their scores added up quickly to a dismal 34 over. By comparison, tournament-champion Alabama shot a 15 under.

SEC Tournament

Perez saved the Gators from elimination in stroke play at the SEC Tournament in Birmingham, Alabama, with a score of even par – good enough for a tie for fourth.

Had Perez shot the same score as the next teammate below her (Brooks with a 9 over), UF would have missed the cut and not made it to match play on a tiebreaker.

In match play, UF ran into a very potent Arkansas Razorbacks attack and lost 3-2 in heartbreaking fashion.

NCAA Austin Regional

In the NCAA Regionals, the top six teams from each region advance to the NCAA Championships.

After Day 1, the Gators were in trouble after finishing in a tie for sixth. They picked it up in Day 2, though, moving up into third, a spot they would stay in after Day 3.

Esborn and senior Taylor Tomlinson led the team into the Championship, an “awesome hurdle to cross for this team,” according to Glaser.

NCAA Championships

After the first day in Stillwater, Oklahoma, UF was in good shape in a tie for tenth as the top 15 teams at the event advanced to match play.

After Day 1, however, it was all downhill.

Even though the Gators shot the same score in round two as they did in round one (15 over), they dropped three spots.

In round three, UF again shot a 15 over in round three. The lack of adjustments proved to be the kiss of death for Florida as it dropped eight spots and saw its season end.

One has to wonder if a lack of experience had an effect in the Gators’ downfall, as they only had one upperclassman on the entire roster.

Still, that fountain of youth is a sign of optimism for Florida as it should be good for years to come with, barring a late transfer, only Tomlinson graduating in the next two years.

You can follow Chris O'Brien on Twitter @THEChrisOB and contact him at cobrien@alligator.org.

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