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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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It’s been a fall season full of trial and error for the Gators men’s golf team.

In its three starts before Sunday, the squad failed to finish higher than seventh place and battled a constant mix of inexperience and poor form throughout the early part of the season.

At least two freshmen have been present in the starting lineup at each tournament, a testament to the youth of coach J.C. Deacon’s current program. 

That trend continued this weekend, as Florida made the short trek to Orlando for the 54-hole Tavistock Collegiate Invitational with three first-years in tow.

The UCF-hosted, invite-only event became an annual stop on Florida’s fall calendar following a team and individual win in 2016.

Five ranked teams in Golfstat’s current rankings were also selected to compete this week at the Isleworth Golf and Country Club: No. 2 Texas Tech, No. 8 Arizona State, No. 21 Vanderbilt, No. 22 Texas and No. 24 Auburn.

A string of difficult team qualifying and the brute 7,544-yard, par-72 layout at Isleworth fared the Gators well during Sunday’s first round. The men strung together a 285 (3 under) team total, solid enough to sit in lone second behind UCF.

John Axelsen led the Gators, again, from the pole position. The junior carded a bogey-free 68 (4 under) on the day to sit tied for third individually. Close behind were the three freshmen, with Ricky Castillo and John DuBois firing even par 72s and Fred Biondi signing for 73.

Considering Florida’s best post-first round positioning up to this point in the season had been a meager eighth place (at both the OFCC/Fighting Illini Invitational and the Nike Collegiate Invitational), Deacon was pleased with his team’s lowest single-round team total this year.

“It was nice to get off to a good start,” the sixth-year coach said in a release. “The guys were able to take all the good golf we have been playing at home in qualifying and have it translate on the road.”

For the Gators to continue building on Sunday’s momentum into Monday and Tuesday’s final two rounds, they will have to continue scoring on an Isleworth track that is considerably longer, faster and firmer than any course they have played this year.

“We have a long way to go,” Deacon said. “We just have to continue to take care of our business and play smart golf with an aggressive mindset.”

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

 

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