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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Gators golfers shine in offseason

After undergoing isolation last summer, the Gators were active on the courses this offseason

Florida's Ricky Castillo celebrates a putt  in the first round of the 2021 NCAA  Cle Elum Regional at Tumble Creek Golf Club in Cle Elum, Wash., on May 19, 2021. (Photography by Stephen Brashear/Red Box Pictures)
Florida's Ricky Castillo celebrates a putt in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Cle Elum Regional at Tumble Creek Golf Club in Cle Elum, Wash., on May 19, 2021. (Photography by Stephen Brashear/Red Box Pictures)

The summer of 2020 was not a good time for golf. The COVID-19 pandemic rampaged through the world, and most clubhouses closed their doors and organizations postponed their events. After a full season, business boomed again in the summer of 2021 as Gators golfers sharpened their games in the offseason once more.

Ricky Castillo, Annabell Fuller and Yuxin Lin capitalized on the return of summer competition and made their mark on the national and international stages. 

Castillo dominates for United States

The Yorba Linda, California, native entered the offseason hot after a 12th-place individual finish at the NCAA championships in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Walker Cup awaited him after he hung up his Florida colors for the summer. The biannual competition between the best male amateur golfers in the United States and Great Britain & Ireland took place at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida. Castillo helped secure a third straight win for the U.S. 

In his four rounds of match play, the junior won all of his matches, and he became the seventh individual to win all his rounds in Walker Cup history. The last golfer to pull off an undefeated record was current PGA Tour star Collin Morikawa, now third in the Official World Golf Rankings.

Castillo appears primed to take another leap forward for Florida this fall. He led the Gators in scoring average during each of his two seasons in Gainesville. In his first year as an upperclassman, Castillo serves as the face of UF’s team.

Fuller takes on the majors

Fuller is another Gators golfer who represented her country this summer. The junior represented England at the European Ladies’ Team Championships and helped her team secure a first-place finish.

The Kingston upon Thames, England, native also competed for her country at the Curtis Cup in North Wales. At the tournament, which uses the same format as the Walker Cup, Fuller posted a record of 3-2 as England fell to the U.S. Despite the loss, the junior took valuable lessons from competing with other top amateurs, she hopes to apply to Florida.

“We had a great team atmosphere (on team England) this summer,” Fuller said. “I’ve already been talking with coach (Glaser) about how to bring that to our team.”

The loss didn’t end Fuller’s busy summer, however. The Gators star also made her major debut when she competed at the AIG Women’s Open. She finished in a tie for 61st at 7 over par, and the experience she garnered playing alongside professionals is something her time at Florida can’t replace.

Entering this season, the Golf Channel ranked her the 23rd-best female golfer in the country. 

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Lin takes next step at Open Championship

The Beijing, China, native, ranked the 34th-best male golfer in the NCAA in a Golf Channel article, also spent part of his summer across the pond. The former Southern California transfer joined the team in Jan. 2021 and qualified to participate in the Open Championship, one of the four men’s majors. This was his second appearance in the tournament, having previously played in 2018. Lin made the cut for the first time in 2021 and ended the week 6 over par, tied for 74th. He placed as the second-highest amateur in the field.

Both the men’s and women’s team return to play this month. The Fuller-led women’s squad kicks off its season in Charleston, South Carolina, at the Cougar Cup on Sept. 13. The men’s team begins its season on Sept. 17 at the Fighting Illini Invitational in Chicago. After an offseason full of success for the stars of Florida golf, the Gators hope their success translates  to the orange and blue.

Contact Carson at Follow him on Twitter @CarsonCashion.

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Carson Cashion

Carson Cashion is a third-year sports journalism major at UF, and the sports editor at The Alligator for the 2022 summer semester. A native of Altamonte Springs, Carson spends his free time walking his dog, Baxter, and listening to good music. He is an avid Tennessee sports fan, and eagerly awaits watching one of his teams win a championship for the first time.

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