Everything was going the Gators’ way through the first nine holes during the opening round at the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invite on Friday. They were even overall and leading the tournament and had three players under par.
However, the back nine was a completely different story.
Florida went a combined ten strokes over par on the back nine and fell to third place, which is still a decent start to their tournament, but likely one that it would like to have back. UF finished the day a stroke behind second-place Kent State and four strokes behind the leader, Texas.
The good news is that all five UF players are in the top 20 after Day 1.
Junior Marta Perez (+1) and redshirt sophomore Elin Esborn (+1) paced the team and sat in eighth place.
Perez was one under after her first 12 holes. A double bogey and a bogey on the 13th and 14th holes set her back, but she recovered with two birdies and a bogey over the last four holes to close out her round.
The junior wasn’t the only one to struggle with the 14th hole. The 531-yard par 5, the longest hole on the course, was a problem for the Gators. All five players in the Gators’ lineup scored a bogey on the hole.
Esborn’s round was largely reminiscent of Perez’s. The redshirt sophomore, much like Perez, had three birdies and two bogeys for a one-under front nine, a bogey on 14 and a two-over back nine.
Junior Sierra Brooks (+2), much like the rest of her teammates, had a strong front nine, also scoring a one under over her first nine holes. A birdie on 12 preceded a brutal three-hole stretch where she scored a combined five strokes over par. Another birdie on 18 would lessen the blow, but the damage had been done.
Esborn and Perez continued to lead the way for the Gators on Saturday.
Perez ended the round still in eighth place, but Esborn jumped four spots into fourth, five strokes behind the leader.
Esborn (E) only had one birdie on her first nine holes, but she also scored zero bogeys. Her back nine was a consistent blend of three birdies, three bogeys and three pars to close out her round at one under.
Perez (+1) was off to a hot start in her second round, carding three birdies on the first five holes. She finished her front nine with three pars and a bogey to bring her to two under. Her back nine, however, was an inverse of the front nine, scoring three bogeys and a birdie to conclude her day.
Freshman Clara Manzalini (+4) and junior Sierra Brooks (+5) were the other two Gators to finish Saturday’s round in the top 20. Lauren Waidner (+12) was the lone golfer outside of the top 20.
The Gators needed those performances from Esborn and Perez because they are now in a duel with Baylor for third place heading into Sunday’s final round.
They started the day in third behind Texas and Kent State, and strong rounds by those two schools leaves the Gators 11 strokes behind the lead. The Gators improved improved their score from Friday by five strokes, but it wasn’t enough for any movement in the standings.
UF will feel plenty of pressure on Sunday from the fourth-place Bears, who are one stroke behind the Gators and 13 strokes ahead of fifth-place SMU. UF and Baylor will likely be playing for who finishes in third, given the large gaps between second and third and fourth and fifth.
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Junior Marta Perez (+1) is in eighth after two rounds at the Longhorn Invite. UF (+10) is currently in 10th.