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Friday, June 14, 2024

Florida men’s golf qualifies for 2024 NCAA championships

Florida placed third out of 13 teams in the West Lafayette regional

<p>Florida&#x27;s Fred Biondi tees off during the SEC Match Play Championships at Shoal Creek Club in Birmingham, Alabama. Biondi will compete in the U.S. Open this year.</p>

Florida's Fred Biondi tees off during the SEC Match Play Championships at Shoal Creek Club in Birmingham, Alabama. Biondi will compete in the U.S. Open this year.

The Florida men’s golf team earned the No. 3-seed in the West Lafayette Regional after securing five regular-season tournament victories and a spot in the SEC championship match-play quarterfinals. The Gators needed to place within the top five in the regional to secure a trip to the national championship.

UF earned a third-place finish with a score of 4-under 860 and qualified for its fourth-straight trip to the national championship following strong performances in rounds two and three. 

Florida got off to a slow start in the first round with six bogeys, recording three through the first five holes. All-SEC Second Team junior Ian Gilligan and All-SEC Freshman Jack Turner bogeyed hole one and posted back-to-back bogeys on holes five and six, putting the Gators 1-over early in tournament play.

Sophomore Matthew Kress and Gilligan responded. While Kress holed a par five eagle on four, Gilligan earned back-to-back birdies on holes two and three. UF dropped its score to 2-under and advanced into the top five on the leaderboard for the first time in the regional. 

The Gators’ spot in the top five didn’t last long. Kress bogeyed hole five and Dubois recorded back-to-back bogeys on holes five and six. Five more team-bogeys between holes six through nine put Florida as high as 2-over as the squad found itself near the bottom of the leaderboard. 

Despite 11 team-bogeys, Florida made par by the turn thanks to three birdies on hole eight from Gilligan, Kress and Turner. 

The Gators quickly responded on the opening holes of the back nine with two birdies as they reached fifth on the leaderboard. UF remained in the top five despite Kress recording a double-bogey on hole 12 and pushing the Gators 1-over in the first round.

While other teams struggled early on the back nine, Florida was able to find its rhythm at the right time.

Four of five Gators went bogey-free on holes 10-15. Moreover, Florida built momentum on holes 15-17. Dubois holed back-to-back birdies and Bell, who secured a top five individual score in the first round shooting 2-under 70, birdied on hole 16.

Gilligan sank a team-best fifth birdie of the day as Florida reduced its score to 4-under and improved to third place on the leaderboard. 

Four Gators bogeyed hole 18, though, making for a shaky finish to round one for UF.

UF finished round one 1-over 289, but still made the top-five cut with a fourth-place finish. Bell and Gilligan shot 1-under 71, good for top-10 finishes individually.

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Florida began round two on holes 10 through 18 and concluded the day on holes one through nine.

Kress, Turner and Dubois sank birdies on hole 10, putting the Gators 2-under early in the round. UF recorded two bogeys on hole 12 including a double-bogey, but regrouped with three birdies on holes 13 and 14.

The Gators played bogey-free golf through holes 13 and 15 as they comfortably sat in fourth place at 2-under. However, Florida’s score increased to 1-over when Dubois recorded a quadruple-bogey. 

Florida was able to make par at the turn after Kress birdied hole 18. UF went bogey-free on holes one and two, but its score increased to 2-over after back-to-back bogeys. 

The Gators were tied with Indiana and New Mexico in fifth place. They needed a spark and Turner proved to be just that.

Turner tallied a 4-over 76 performance in round one and sank three birdies through eight holes. He finished round two 2-under 70, a six stroke improvement from the first round.

Bell and Dubois built upon Turner’s consistency with a combined four birdies on holes six through eight. Florida’s lead over sixth-place Mississippi State extended to four strokes after Kress holed a birdie on eight.

Despite sinking seven birdies in the final four holes, New Mexico (3-under) overtook UF for fourth place late in round two. Regardless, Florida finished the round 3-under 285 and headed into round three in championship-qualifying fifth-place at 2-under 574. 

With a spot in the national championship on the line, Florida locked in its top-five finish in round three with a 2-under 286 finish.

Bell and Kress opened Wednesday with birdies on holes 10 and 12, respectively. Despite Kress recording double-bogeys on holes 11 and 14, Florida kept under par and in the top five on the leaderboard.

The Gators jumped into third place (4-under) when Gilligan and Dubois holed birdies on 13 and 16. Bell then tied for the individual lead at 5-under when he sank a birdie on hole 14. 

Three team-bogeys on holes 16-18, including a double-bogey, improved Florida’s score to par.  

The Gators remained six strokes ahead of sixth place at the final turn. However, UF recorded a tournament-high four double-bogeys through the first nine holes.

Florida went over par for the first time since early in round two when Gilligan recorded a bogey on one. He responded with a birdie on hole two. 

Bell and Dubois eventually pushed the Gators back into third place and under par with birdies on holes one and four. 

Bell was tied for No. 1 on the individual leaderboard for the first time in the tournament with eight holes of play left.

Turner sank two birdies from holes five to seven, entering the top-20 individually and continuing his streak of two-straight rounds at or under par.

The Gators reached a tournament-low score of 5-under and sealed their spot in the top five after Dubois and Turner sank birdies on hole nine.

Dubois, Turner and Kress finished holes one through nine bogey-free and Florida made the championship cut by 13 strokes.

Bell ended the tournament in eighth place at 4-under 212, good for his fourth top-10 finish this season.

Next, Florida will travel to Carlsbad, California for the national championship. The event will take place May 24-29 at the Omni La Costa Champions Course.

Contact Aiden Wacksman at aidenwacksman@go.sfcollege.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @aidenwacksman.

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