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Saturday, April 13, 2024
<p><span id="docs-internal-guid-36cb9718-7fff-e6d5-9f23-9f4bfabdc4f9"><span>The Gators finished 10th in their first event of the season and look to build on that in Chicago.</span></span></p>

The Gators finished 10th in their first event of the season and look to build on that in Chicago.

After a mildly disappointing start to the season a few weeks ago, the Gators men’s golf team will strive to build some much-needed momentum this weekend at the OFCC/Fighting Illini Invitational in Chicago.

Earlier this month, Florida succumbed to a combination of sluggish play and inexperience in the season-opening Carpet Capital Collegiate. The result was a meager 10th-place finish among a field that included three ranked teams. 

Freshmen Ricky Castillo and Quentin Debove saw their first competitive action among the starting five, and veterans like junior Chris Nido and sophomore Eugene Hong struggled to find their games all week.

This weekend’s Illinois-hosted tournament features 10 ranked programs according to the Bushnell Golfweek Preseason Coaches poll, including three of the top five: No. 1 Texas, No. 3 Georgia Tech and No. 4 Oklahoma State.

The 54-hole event begins with early morning tee times on Friday, followed by second-and-third round action on Saturday and Sunday.

Olympia Fields Country Club, past-host of two U.S. Open Championships and two PGA Championships, will once again open its gates to host the annual invitational. The famed North Course stretches out to a 7,205 par 70 layout, meaning this weekend’s field will likely have pristine major championship-like conditions to compete on.

If inexperience cost the Gators in its season opener, coach J.C. Deacon is not helping his cause in his first trip to the Windy City at the helm of the program. Three freshman – Castillo, Debove and John DuBois – earned spots on the starting lineup. Joining them is junior John Axelsen and Hong at the No. 1 and No. 5 spots, respectively.

While all three fresh faces struggled in Georgia in their first collegiate events, their scores should carry little weight. After all, Castillo has been a world-class player among the amateur ranks for years, and Debove and Dubois similarly earned spots on both the roster and this week’s lineup for good reason.

Without a doubt, this weekend will paint a strong image of where Deacon’s squad is at. The golf course is brute, the field is elite and only time will tell how this young Florida squad will fare.

Follow Jack Braverman @jack_braverman. Contact him at jbraverman@alligator.org

The Gators finished 10th in their first event of the season and look to build on that in Chicago.

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