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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Florida won its first tournament of the spring season this weekend. 

UF dominated the competition at the Florida Gators Invitational in Gainesville and eventually won by a commanding 18 strokes. 

Freshman Ricky Castillo stole the show on day one after he shot a career-best seven-under in the second round and came into day two in first place on the individual leaderboards. The impressive play continued on Day 2 when he shot six-under, finishing the tournament in first place individually by a commanding eight strokes. 

The first round, however, was not the deciding factor for Castillo and the Gators, as the team was only winning by two points over Mississippi State. 

The bulk of Florida’s lead was built in the second round when they saw four of its five golfers shoot no higher than one-over par. 

“All the things this team has been working on are showing up when we need them the most,” coach J.C. Deacon said in a release. “We displayed an unbelievable amount of toughness throughout the day in some very challenging conditions. That's exactly how we want to be defined this season. Not one guy gave in and that led to some really great comebacks and scores."

One of those great scores came from junior John Axelsen who finished day one at an even par, putting him eighth on the individual leaderboard going into Day 2. His level of play only increased as he shot four-under and placed third individually. 

Two other top performers for the Gators were redshirt senior Blake Dyer and junior Chris Nido who both shot an even par in round two and finished the tournament in 16th and 31st place, respectively. 

The fifth and final golfer for Florida was redshirt sophomore Manny Girona. Unlike the other four golfers, Girona shot a solid first round at one-over but struggled in the second round, finishing day one at 11-over. On day two, the sophomore rallied and shot a much more respectable two over par. 

The No. 26 ranked Gators are sure to get a boost in the rankings after their big win this weekend, and Castillo is most likely going to be moving up the amateur individual rankings as well. 

Looking ahead, UF will be hoping to continue its stellar play in Las Vegas in two weeks when it goes up against No. 1 Pepperdine University in the Southern Highlands Collegiate. 

Follow Christian Berry on Twitter @Berry05219. Contact him at cberry@alligator.org.

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