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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Opening days for fall tournaments have been a mixed bag for the Gators. A miserable first day at the Carpet Capital Collegiate set the tone for a disappointing 13th-place finish. John Axelsen’s 64 on the opening round at last week’s Trinity Forest Invitational sparked a fourth-place finish for both Axelsen and the Gators.

So it’s only fitting that the Gators’ opening round at the Nike Collegiate Invitational in Dallas was somewhere between those two extremes. They sit in a tie with USC for seventh out of 15 teams in the field after scoring a 286 (+6) as a team, five strokes behind leader Vanderbilt, and placed four of their five golfers in the top 30.

The problem, however, is that the highest of those four are sophomores Axelsen (+1) and Manny Girona (+1), who tied for 19th place. Freshmen Aden Ye (+2) and Eugene Hong (+2) were right behind them, but mistakes from senior Gordon Neale (+10) cost the Gators on Sunday.

Neale’s round started off innocently enough, scoring a bogey and a birdie to go along with four pars across his first six holes, but he his day first derailed with a triple bogey on his seventh hole. The senior’s last 11 holes featured a birdie, two bogeys, a double bogey and another triple bogey to give him 72nd place.

Having four golfers in the top 30 is a good sign for the Gators, but they are going to need at least one golfer to stand out individually. All six teams ahead of UF on the leaderboard have at least one golfer in the top 10.

The gap between Axelsen and Girona and the top 10 is only one stroke, but it is something to keep an eye on over the next two days. The Gators will need someone to emerge from the pack if they are to move up the leaderboard.

Follow Brendan Farrell on Twitter @Bfarrell727 and contact him at bfarrell@alligator.org.

Sophomore John Axelsen finished Day 1 of the Nike Collegiate Invitational at 1-over par, good for a share of 19th.

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