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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Gators men’s golf wins second straight tournament at Sea Best Invitational

Florida beat 14 other teams to secure the tournament victory at TPC Sawgrass in Jacksonville

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

In a nail-biting finish, the Gators men’s golf won its second tournament of the spring season at the Sea Best Invitational in Jacksonville. This marks the team’s seventh victory at this particular tournament as well as their fifth win under head coach J.C. Deacon. They edged out the field by two strokes with a score of 2-over despite owning a seven-shot lead going into the final round.

The Gators had 10 players competing in the tournament with five players competing as individuals. The lineup consisted of sophomore Matthew Kress, senior Tyler Wilkes, junior Ian Gilligan, freshman Jack Turner and fifth-year John DuBois. Freshman Luke Poulter, sophomore Miguel Leal, sophomore Parker Bell, senior Quentin Debove and junior Ryan Hart all competed as individuals.

Round 1 of the tournament was up and down for the Gators. They began with a strong team performance which included 10 birdies and sat in second place overall through six holes. 

However, the team struggled to continue this success into the ensuing holes and recorded both a double bogey and triple bogey, dropping them down to sixth place by the time they reached the ninth hole. Florida turned it around by the end of the day and finished 6-over with a two-stroke lead going into Round 2.

Florida learned from its mistakes and had a much stronger second round. They shot 4-under as a team, were 10 strokes better than the round before and held a seven-shot lead by the end of the round. 

Thirty-one birdies contributed to this impressive lead, as well as strong individual play from Gilligan and Wilkes. Gilligan shot an impressive 3-under-par 67 to take the solo lead by two shots. 

He was in prime position for his fifth collegiate win and first as a Gator. Wilkes willed himself into tying for second place, finishing 1-under despite being 1-over at the end of the first round. 

UF continued their strong play early in the third round. Wilkes captured solo second place with back-to-back birdies on the first two holes. Gilligan also came out strong with four birdies on the first seven holes. The team held an 11-stroke lead going into the seventh hole. Though, they had a shaky finish with seven team bogeys and a double bogey to end the front nine. 

The struggles continued for the Gators into the back nine. Gilligan recorded back-to-back bogeys on holes 10 and 11, dropping himself back into second place. The team had two double bogeys on these holes, opening the door for the University of North Florida to work their way into a tie for first. North Florida shot a strong 276 in Round 3, but Florida hung on and earned the solo victory by three strokes. 

Gilligan came up short, unable to earn his first win as a Gator. He fell behind North Florida’s Robbie Higgins on the front nine and could not recover. Gilligan was up and down throughout the back nine, recording three birdies and four bogeys. On the other hand, Higgins only recorded one bogey with the same number of birdies on the back nine, and his consistency would ultimately lead to his one-stroke victory. 

Overall, seven Gators finished in the top 15 of the tournament, with three being in the lineup.  Gilligan finished second, Wilkes finished tied for fourth and Turner finished tied for seventh as lineup players. Poulter, Bell, Leal and Debove all finished in the top 15 as individuals in the tournament. 

The Gators will back in action, Feb. 17. They’ll look to continue their spring success in the Gators Invitational, a two-day tournament at Mark Bostick Golf Course.

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