After five days of nonstop play, the Florida Gators men’s golf team fought to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association National Championship finals.
UF traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona, to compete in the NCAA National Championship tournament May 26.
The starting lineup consisted of redshirt freshman Matthew Kress and seniors Ricky Castillo, Fred Biondi, John DuBois and Yuxin Lin.
Florida shot a three-over-par 280 on the first day of nationals to finish in seventh. The Gators were the first team to tee off in the tournament, and a round one score marked their best in all-time history at Greyhawk. UF’s final was two shots better than its previous best set in round two last year.
Biondi led the team in the opening round with a one-under-par 70. The senior’s birdie on the tenth hole moved the Gators to two-under-par to follow Castillo’s back-to-back birdies.
Lin’s back-to-back birdies on holes 17 and 18 moved Florida to one-over-par just before the round came to an end.
DuBois with two consecutive birdies closed out the first round. He finished even-par 70 — a stroke better than Castillo, who had a score of one-over-par 70 after the round.
Lin and Kress both finished over-par going into round two May 27.
UF was one of two teams to go under-par in round two along with Illinois.
"I think you look back historically at the national championship at Grayhawk and playing in the afternoons is really difficult,” said head coach J.C Deacon. “To shoot under-par, to have Castillo and Biondi shoot a 68 in those conditions is great, mature, and very smart golf and I'm proud of them.”
Biondi and Castillo finished the second round with scores of two-under-par 70. Biondi was bogey-free for the day. The senior was placed fourth individually and three strokes away from the solo lead.
Castillo, tied for eighth individually, shot three birdies to put him back under-par by one stroke. DuBois shot his second consecutive round of even-par 70 to sit in a tie for 13th individually.
Florida went into round three of the tournament with a score of 278. It was five strokes back from second place.
UF turned in its second straight round of two-under-par 280 in round three May 28.
Four of the Gators’ five starters shot under-par. Lin was the only player to shoot above with a score of two-over-par 70.
Biondi and DuBois led the round with scores of one-under-par 70. Biondi was one of two players to score all three rounds in the 60s along with Georgia Tech senior Ross Steelman.
Florida finished well above the top-15 cut in third that day to advance while Biondi and Steelman battled for the individual title.
“I just put my head down and tried the best I could,” Biondi said.
Biondi rallied from five shots back Monday to earn the 2023 Individual National Champion title. The Brazilian golfer and his teammates celebrated his accomplishments along with a second-place finish to make the top-8 cut and advance to match play.
Kress improved with a score of one-under-par 70. Castillo finished in a tie for 11th individually with his career-best finish in the NCAA National Championship tournament, an even-par 280. DuBois was a stroke behind to tie individually for 18th. The last time three UF players finished in the top-20 was 2006.
The No. 2 seed Gators teed off against the No. 7 seed Virginia Cavaliers in the quarterfinals May 30 at 9:20 a.m. Tuesday where Lin secured his team a spot in the semifinals against the No. 6 seed Florida State Seminoles.
Lin shot a birdie on the 17th hole to lead by 1. After his opponent, Virginia junior George Duangmanee, failed an attempt to make par on hole 18, Lin locked in Florida’s spot in the semifinals.
“I tried to be patient and keep doing what I was doing,” Lin said. “And it obviously worked out at the end. I'm really happy for the team and myself as well."
UF teed off against FSU at 3:45 p.m that afternoon.
The ‘Noles held the lead for the majority of the first nine holes. Biondi and DuBois rallied to tie their matches late into each of their rounds.
Biondi came out on top with a win on the 17th hole and an even-par on 18 to put the first point on the board for the Gators.
Castillo was still down two strokes through the 15th hole. The senior made even-par on 16 to erase the deficit to one stroke against Florida State freshman Brett Roberts. The two went head-to-head, but a birdie from Castillo on 18 tied his match.
“If our program's hands are in anyone's hands, I want them to be in Ricky's,” Deacon said.
In the last moments of the playoff holes, Roberts found himself dropping away from Castillo. The Florida golfer came out victorious to improve his match play record to 8-3-1. Nonetheless, Castillo described Roberts as a great competitor.
“Me and Roberts went back and forth the whole day,” Castillo said. “It was a really tough match, and neither of us had our best stuff, but both of us grinded out really hard today and fought hard.”
Castillo’s comeback pushed UF through to the final round where they will take on the No. 5 seed Georgia Tech for a chance at the program's fifth National Championship today at 4:35 p.m. Live coverage on the Golf Channel will begin at 5 p.m.