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Saturday, April 13, 2024

The Gators were close to starting their spring season with an impressive tournament win. Freshman Ricky Castillo and junior John Axelsen finished first and second on the individual leaderboard at the Sea Best Invitational in Jacksonville Tuesday, but the team ultimately lost by two strokes to No. 20 Texas A&M.

In the first round, Florida showed off its potential and led all teams with an impressive score of 276, two points lower than second-place North Carolina’s 278. It was a score good enough to give UF a two-stroke lead going into the second day.

This impressive start came at the hands of a strong performance from redshirt freshman Fred Biondi. He showed his potential, scoring a career-best four-under 66 in the opening round, which was seven strokes better than his previous mark.

However, the first-round lead didn't last long, as Texas A&M stormed back in the next 18 to regain a one-stroke advantage by the end of day two.

Despite Texas A&M’s tremendous second round, Axelsen, Castillo and Biondi all had stellar performances for the Gators, which saw them finish the day within the top three on the individual leaderboards.

“I’m really pleased for a lot of the guys and the team that their hard work and commitment in the month of January paid off with a good start today,” coach J.C. Deacon said in a release. “To be in contention and in the final group tomorrow is more like our standard.”

Ultimately, Axelsen and Castillo’s individual performances kept the team within striking distance Tuesday but UF was never able to regain an edge over Texas A&M, which led to their eventual two-stroke loss.

UF hosts the Florida Gators Invitational on Feb. 15 and has four more tournaments before the SEC Championship on April 22.

If this tournament was any indication, it looks like Florida may have a real shot come April.

Follow Christian on Twitter @Berry052199 and contact him at cberry@alligator.org.

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