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Friday, June 14, 2024

Florida men’s golf falls short in SEC Championship, loses in the quarterfinals

The Gators were eliminated in the quarterfinals of match play by Vanderbilt 3-2 in extra holes

Florida redshirt freshman Matthew Kress swings his club during the Southeastern Conference Championships Thursday, April 20, 2023. / Photo by Leslie White
Florida redshirt freshman Matthew Kress swings his club during the Southeastern Conference Championships Thursday, April 20, 2023. / Photo by Leslie White

As it headed to the SEC Championship, Florida men’s golf was looking to defend its SEC title by securing another win. The team managed to qualify for match play after finishing sixth in stroke play, led by freshman Jack Turner who finished a team-best tied for second. But none of it mattered if it couldn’t capitalize in the quarterfinals. 

Facing a tough Vanderbilt squad for a third straight time in the SEC Championship, the Gators had their work cut out for them. The Commodores took the lead early, capturing two points. With just one more point needed for Vanderbilt to secure the win, Florida needed to get something going. With Turner trailing by two through 15 holes, it looked like it was all over.

But, Turner turned the momentum around, tying his match with one hole remaining and recording a birdie on the final hole to secure the first point for the Gators. Florida would continue to fight, tying up the remaining two matches. 

After a win in extra holes from junior Ian Gilligan, it all came down to sophomore Matthew Kress. He sank a birdie on 18 to force extra holes but would drop the match on Hole 19, giving the Commodores the win and a chance to play in the semifinals. 

Florida struggled early in Round 1 of the tournament, carding four team bogeys and three double-bogeys on the front nine. At the turn, the Gators were out of match play contention, sitting tied for 10th at 1-over. They managed to turn their play around on the back nine, led by Turner who recorded four birdies on the final nine holes to finish the day tied for eighth. 

Sophomore Parker Bell also had a solid first round for Florida, with three birdies to just one bogey. He also led the Gators, as he was tied for eighth in his first SEC tournament. UF managed to finish Round 1 tied for sixth. 

The Gators came out fired up in Round 2, turning their play around to shoot a round of 10-under. They recorded the lowest team round of the day thanks to 20 birdies, placing themselves in prime position to qualify for match play. 

Turner recorded the lowest individual round of the day, carding five birdies and going bogeyless to finish the round tied for second. He entered the final day of stroke play one shot back from the lead.

Gilligan, who finished round one tied for 35th, also had an impressive Day 2. He carded two birdies on the front nine and went bogey-free until the 11th hole. After another bogey, he ended the round with four straight birdies to move up to a tie for 14th going into the third round. 

Bell struggled in Round 2, shooting a 3-over round of 73. He bogeyed four times and carded a double bogey on his way to a T33 finish.

Florida struggled to carry its momentum into round three, recording 17 team bogeys and three double-bogeys. It managed to turn it around with 18 birdies but dropped down the leaderboard to finish stroke play in sixth. This was enough to move on to the quarterfinals. 

Looking to capture his first collegiate title, Turner hoped to continue his second round play. He bogeyed on holes one and seven but quickly adjusted with back-to-back birdies to finish the front nine. 

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With two bogeys on the back nine to just one birdie, Turner could not capture the title finishing tied for second. Although he didn’t get the win, his finish marks the second-best at the SEC Championship for a Florida true freshman.  

Bell managed a top-25 finish in his first SEC Championship appearance, ending stroke play tied for 23rd. He played a strong front nine, carding zero bogeys and recording three birdies in a row before the turn. A double-bogey and two bogeys on the first four holes of the back nine dropped him back but Bell battled, recording two birdies on his final four holes. 

With their loss to Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals, the Gators have been eliminated from the tournament. They’ll have to wait to hear their fate during the NCAA Regional Selection, which will be announced on May 1. The Regionals will begin on May 13. 

Florida will look to capitalize at the regionals and get a chance to defend its title at the National Championship.

Contact Hannah Getman at hgetman@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @hannahgetman.  

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