The Florida men’s golf team stayed on state grounds as they made their way to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, to compete in their 32nd regional as a program. Under head coach J.C. Deacon, the Gators have made it to every golf regional since 2014.
Redshirt junior Fred Biondi tied for second in the tournament with a total of 211 strokes, as the Gators placed third overall to advance to the national championship.
Florida, which usually enjoys successful postseasons, found itself once again in the mix to advance to the NCAA championship this year at the Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. After a weak start to the season in October, the orange and blue pushed themselves late in this season to become one of the better teams in golf at the collegiate level. Their third-place performance in the SoutheasternConference Championship, including junior John Dubois winning the SEC Championship individual title, helped them secure a two-seed in their regional.
The tournament took three days to complete. On day one, the Gators started off sluggish, suffering multiple bogeys in the first nine, even dropping to 12th-place after DuBois went 4-over par by getting a triple bogey in hole five. However, by the back nine in round one, UF put its foot on the gas and never let it off.
Dubois recovered, securing his fourth eagle of the season after an incredible approach shot to finish hole six in three strokes.
The Gators proceeded to execute in the back nine with little to no mistakes, as junior Yuxin Lin and DuBois finished 1-over par in the last nine holes. Monday ended with UF finishing round one with a total of 294 strokes (6-over par), tying the College of Charleston in fifth-place.
The Gators opened Tuesday with an impressive stride, shooting round two at 4-under par and a total of 284 strokes.
Biondi led the orange and blue in day two with three birdies and an eagle on the 18th hole. The São Paulo, Brazil, native finished with a score of 3-under par, marking two days straight of going even or below par in the tournament.
Junior Ricky Castillo, who went 5-over par in round one, was the most impressive Gator on the course as he cut seven strokes off his first round card. The Yorba Linda, California, native went through both the first and back nine with a score of 1-under par.
Florida jumped into third place, tied with Notre Dame. With one more day remaining in Palm Beach Gardens the orange and blue sat in the right position to be a part of the advancing five.
Going into day three, however, a change was made to start the last day of play. Sophomore Tyler Wilkes trudged through Monday and Tuesday, struggling to get under par as he went 7-over par after two rounds. Deacon, needing to get the job done on the final day, looked in the direction of his alternate.
The alternate, redshirt sophomore Quentin Debove, was one of three Gators who finished under par through the first nine holes. That included Biondi, brushing aside the first nine with three birdies and an eagle to go 5-under par halfway in the day.
As Florida went back and forth with Florida State for the second-place spot, they continued to separate from the pack as UF became 15 strokes ahead of fifth-place College of Charleston late in the day. Florida ended the tournament with the most eagles by any team with five, finishing in third place with 862 total shots and a 2-under par score for the tournament.
With their spot locked in the top five, the Gators advanced to the NCAA National Championship for the 54th time in the program's history.
The national championship will take place from May 27 to June 1 at the Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Brandon Hernandez is a student at the University of Florida studying journalism. He is a writer for The Alligator and for PlugTalkSports. You can find most of his work on his Twitter (BranH2001) and on his podcast, “The Courtside Podcast,” on Spotify.