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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Florida mounts comeback at NCAA regional to advance to National Championship

The Gators finished fourth at the NCAA Bath regional tournament

<p>Redshirt sophomore Fred Biondi stares down a hole while practicing at Mark Bostick Golf Course. Biondi led the Gators at Vanderbilt, finishing 15th individually.</p>

Redshirt sophomore Fred Biondi stares down a hole while practicing at Mark Bostick Golf Course. Biondi led the Gators at Vanderbilt, finishing 15th individually.

The Gators made their way from seventh to fourth place in the final round of the NCAA Bath regional after a rocky start in round one. During the last nine holes of the tournament, and what could’ve been its season, Florida secured their spot above the top-five cut to advance to the National Championship.

The Florida men’s golf team scored 12-under-par at the NCAA regional tournament to make the top-five cut. After a fourth place finish, the Gators will advance to the National Collegiate Athletic Association National Championship. 

“I never really doubted that they were going to find a way to get it done,” head coach J.C. Deacon said. “I am excited for the guys to have an opportunity to compete for a national championship."

UF traveled to Bath, Michigan, to compete in the NCAA Regional tournament Monday.

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

Florida went four-under-par 280 Monday. UF finished round one in seventh and one stroke back from the top-five cut. The teams who finish in the top five advance to the NCAA National Championship.

Biondi, Castillo and DuBois led the team with under-par scores at the end of the first 18. 

DuBois was bogey-free and three-under-par through the second set of nine holes to tie for 30th individually. The senior produced birdies on holes 17 and 18 to finish one-under-par 71.

Biondi and Castillo were both even-par going into the second half of the round. The two were tied for 20th going into round two.

Kress and Lin were  tied for 44th individually with scores of one-over-par 71.

Round two teed off at 8:55 a.m. Tuesday.

UF finished even with a score of 284 in a tie for sixth.

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Biondi had one bogey total in the last 36 holes. The Brazilian shot two rounds in the 60s. Two birdies on holes 14 and 18 helped keep the Gators within reach of the top-five cut. 

Biondi finished the second round five-under overall in a tie for sixth individually.

Whether Florida advanced to the NCAA National Championship or not, Biondi would have been in a position to make nationals as an individual player. The top competitor on each non-advancing team earns the opportunity to compete in nationals.

Lin had a double-bogey on the fifth hole but managed to fight his way back to even-par after a birdie on hole 18. Castillo scored even in round two as well to remain two-under overall. Lin was tied for 37th and Castillo was tied for 21st after round two.

The team finished the second round seven shots back from the top-five cut.

The Gators trailed to start the final round Wednesday. It was during the last nine holes of round three that Florida made its comeback from seventh to fourth place. 

Lin, Castillo and DuBois led the Gators with scores in the 60s. Lin had three birdies in the first four holes to finish in a tie for 11th individually with Castillo.

“You just have to see if everyone else can handle the moment as well as you do,” Deacon said. 

Kress and Castillo had pairs of birdies which began to move UF back up the leaderboard. Lin had three consecutive birdies on holes 14 through 16 to push the Gators ahead by four strokes. 

“The season was on the line, and we needed a big round from someone,” Deacon said.

Florida will make its 56th NCAA Championship appearance and its fifth appearance under Deacon.

The NCAA National Championship will take place at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, May 26-31. Tee times will be based on Golfstat’s final rankings after the regional play concludes.

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

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