The Florida Gators men’s golf team opened its season this weekend in the windy city. Competing at the Fighting Illini Invitational, hosted by Illinois, head coach J.C. Deacon and his team hoped to begin their campaign on a high note.
The Gators entered the invitational facing tough competition. Seven of the programs ranked in the top ten, according to Golfweekly.com competed at the meet, including the defending national champions, Pepperdine. In a meet that saw both hole-in-one’s and 10-over rounds, the Gators(unfinished thought)
Lin hits hole-in-one
Despite the brutal field of opponents, Florida held its own early on. After the first round, the Gators were tied for fifth place with Texas and Purdue. Junior Yuxin Lin helped contribute to that finish with a hole-in-one on the 200-yard eighth hole to open his first full season being a Gator with a bang.
The round was not perfect for Florida, though. Junior Ricky Castillo, a pre-season Haskins Award contender, finished at 8-over-par. The round included three bogeys, one double-bogey and a triple-bogey on the fourth hole as Castillo didn’t break par on any hole. Despite his final score being dropped and thus not affecting Florida’s team score, it was a harsh opening round for a player with high expectations.
Roles flip in round two
Castillo bounced back in a big way in round two, earning a 1-under-par score and leading his team with the low round of the day. The rest of the team, however, failed to follow suit; every player on the team besides Castillo played worse in round two than they did in round one.
After two rounds, Florida found itself in a tie for ninth place with Baylor, a far cry from their early top five. Still, the Gators were only three strokes away from the fifth-place,Alabama,. There was a chance to clawback up the rankings, but it would take an improved final dash.
Gators settle in final round
Florida finally found a rhythm in the final round of the tournament after a rollercoaster opening two rounds. The top four scores were all within two strokes of par; the first round of the invitational where that occurred.
Despite the improved consistency, no athlete broke 70 over the course of the week, which prevented the Gators from attempting to climb back into the upper echelon of the standings. Florida sat in ninth when the team finished its final round, but an 8-over-par final round from Pepperdine dropped the Waves into a tie for eighth with Florida, where both teams finished the tournament.
Deacon and his men travel to Ft. Worth, Texas on Oct. 4 for the Nike Collegiate Invitational for a two-day affair. Until then, the Gators have two weeks to keep practicing on the course.
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