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Saturday, March 02, 2024
Florida men's golf head coach JC Deacon and redshirt freshman Matthew Kress embrace after the Gators' victory over the No. 2 Texas A&M Aggies in the SEC Championship Semifinals Saturday, April 22, 2023. / Photo by Leslie White
Florida men's golf head coach JC Deacon and redshirt freshman Matthew Kress embrace after the Gators' victory over the No. 2 Texas A&M Aggies in the SEC Championship Semifinals Saturday, April 22, 2023. / Photo by Leslie White

The Gators defeated the Commodores and secured the Southeastern Conference Championship title for the 16th time in program history. 

The Florida men’s golf team traveled to St. Simons, Georgia, to compete in the Southeastern Conference Championship tournament Wednesday. UF beat the No. 1-seed Vanderbilt Commodores.

The starting lineup consisted of redshirt freshman Matthew Kress and seniors Ricky Castillo, Fred Biondi, John DuBois and Yuxin Lin. 

The match went back and forth. DuBois and his opponent were each 26 feet away from the hole on 18. The senior added to the intensity after he tied up the match on 16. After being down as many as three strokes on three occasions, including being three behind with seven holes left, he made a comeback that led the Gators to victory. 

As last year's SEC Individual Champion, he was a key player again this year; nailed the par putt for the eventual match-clinching point. His opponent missed his shot to force extra holes.

DuBois described the greens as firm and fast, he said. When he went to swing for the third time, he missed the hole by about 15 feet. After that, he hit from about six feet out and thought. 

“‘That’s gotta go,’ and, for sure, it did,” DuBois said. “So it was a really awesome moment.” 

Florida earned points early from Kress and Castillo. Kress finished undefeated this week in his postseason debut; he finished in a tie for 19th.

“I remember a couple of weeks ago sitting in [Deacon’s] office, and it wasn’t the first time I told him that before I leave here I was going to put a ring on his finger,” Kress said. “And it wasn’t going to be his wedding ring. We did it man.”

The Commodores followed quickly. The two matches following Kress and Castillo were tied, and Vanderbilt was up by one. 

Biondi was paired with last year’s national champion, sophomore Gordon Sargent, and tied his match. He had a birdie after being one stroke down with two holes left. 

The victory marks the first conference title for head coach J.C. Deacon and the 16th in program history; the last came in 2011. 

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Deacon was unsure his team was going to be able to make this happen, he said. But it’s what he wanted most. 

“Credit to [Vanderbilt coaches] Scott Limbaugh and Gator Todd,” he said. “They just have the most incredible program. It took everything for us to beat them today. That says it all about my guys. We got an incredible team and we won the SEC Championship.”

Thanks to this win, UF has earned an automatic qualification into the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament scheduled to begin May 15. The location will be announced May 3 for the Gators. 

Contact Madilyn at mdestefano@alligtor.org. Follow her on Twitter @DestefanoMadi. 

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