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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Gators fall short of NCAA Championships and see their season end

After a season riddled with disappointment, the Florida women’s golf team saw their 2020-21 campaign come to an end in Stanford.

<p>Marina Escobar chomps during the third round of the 2021 Gators Invitational.  / UAA Communications photo by Tim Casey</p>

Marina Escobar chomps during the third round of the 2021 Gators Invitational. / UAA Communications photo by Tim Casey

One stroke was the difference between Florida’s women’s golf team traveling to Arizona at the end of May or putting their clubs away until next fall. One stroke marked the line between success and failure. 

The Gators were finally able to play a full slate in 2020-21 following a season that was cancelled right as play was heating up. 

Florida returned many notable golfers from their last full season in 2018-19. Addie Baggarly was a mainstay in the starting five, while Clara Manzalini, Jenny Kim and Lauren Waidner all appeared as part of this season's squad. 

Baggarly shaved her stroke average down from 74.17 in 2018-19 to 73.52 in 2020-21. The senior appeared in eight events for the Gators, with her best finish coming at the East Lake Cup where she tied for 10th. 

The young guns led Florida in total rounds played this year and offered a glimpse toward the future of the roster. 

Second-year star Annabell Fuller earned the lone all-conference team nomination for Florida when she was announced to the All-SEC Second Team. The England native notched the lone win of the season for Florida with a 5-under-par total at their home tournament, and she led the team with a 72.63 scoring average and four top-10 finishes.

Sophomore Marina Escobar played a team-high 28 rounds with a 73.89 stroke average. Escobar matched Fuller’s team-leading five top-25 finishes. 

Maisie Filler totaled 25 rounds in her debut year for the orange and blue and saw steady growth throughout the season. The All-SEC Freshman Team member finished in the top 25 four times and notched a new career-best T12 finish at the NCAA Regional after three rounds of even-par 71, the best performance on the team. 

Juniors Manzalini and Kim both competed in four events for the Gators. They commonly slid into the fifth slot of a line-up anchored by Baggarly, Fuller, Filler and Escobar. 

In seven university-hosted tournaments, the Gators finished in the top 5 only one time but made it count when they took home a team win. 

Florida’s lone victory came on its home turf when it hosted the Gators Invitational.

Florida shot a 16-over-par during the late February competition. Ole Miss matched the Gators’ mark and took home a share of the title. This was the Gators sixth straight year winning their home event. 

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Fuller secured an exclusive invitation to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in March. Baggarly was also included in the field of the world’s best female amateurs who got to tee it up at one of the world’s most prestigious golf courses. 

Fuller finished the event in a tie for 22nd with a 10-over-par 226. Baggarly missed the cut after the first two days. 

The Gators struggled for the majority of the year outside of Gainesville. 

During their season opening trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas, the team finished in sixth. Escobar did collect her first top-five finish when her 1-over-par earned her a tie for fourth. 

Mississippi State hosted The Ally at Old Waverly for Florida’s second tournament, which started promisingly. The Gators stood atop the leaderboard after the first day with an 8-under-par 280. The collapse started from that point on. Florida finished in a tie for 6th at 6-over-par 870 after playing the final 36 holes 14 over par. 

The Gators ended the fall portion of their season at the East Lake Cup in Atlanta, Georgia. The team finished third out of four teams and competed against Ole Miss, South Carolina and Texas. 

After an underwhelming fall, the Gators turned their focus to the spring part of their season. 

After the break, Florida came out hot with a victory in front of the home crowd. The Gators looked to build off the win for the three remaining events before the postseason. 

Things did not go as planned. 

UF faced intense competition in Colombia, South Carolina, at the Gamecock Intercollegiate. Florida finished second to last on the team leaderboard, and Filler was the only Gator to crack the top-50, tying for 20th. 

Florida’s subpar play continued in its final two regular-season outings. 

A ninth-place finish at the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic and a tie for 12th at the LSU Tiger Invitational had Florida on a cold streak headed to the postseason. 

The Gators would go on to miss the top-eight cut at the SEC Championship in Birmingham, Alabama. The five Gators all fell outside of the top-25 individually. 

After failing to finish in the top six at the NCAA Regional and not qualifying for the NCAA Championship, Florida’s attention turns to the 2021-22 season. 

SEC end-of-season honor recipients Fuller and Filler will lead Florida into the future. 

The Gators say goodbye to past and present staples Baggarly, Waidner, Elin Esborn and Marta Perez, as they completed their senior seasons. 

Contact Joseph Henry at jhenry@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @Josephhenry2424

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