Florida is a team rich with history and annual national championship expectations. Given such lofty standards, this weekend proved rather disappointing for the Gators men’s golf team.
The team arrived in Dalton, Georgia, with hopes of quickly returning to form following a less-than-stellar 2018 campaign. What resulted instead was a string of inconsistent and scrappy golf among the starting five, culminating in a substandard 10th-place finish at the season-opening Carpet Capital Collegiate.
After the first round, the Gators saw themselves in 11th place out of 15 teams, with junior John Axelsen the only member of the squad not over par (E). Freshman Ricky Castillo entered his much-anticipated first collegiate event as the highest-ranked player in the field but stumbled to a 5-over-par 77 in his first action donning orange and blue.
“After the amazing week of preparation that we had, I was surprised to see us finish up the way we did,” said coach J.C. Deacon, now in his sixth season at the helm of the program. “I know this is a good team, but we are young and there are going to be some bumps along the way.”
Granted, it was the first look at collegiate action for two of Florida’s starting five, and the competition this weekend at The Farm Golf Club included three ranked teams — Georgia Tech, Tennessee and South Florida.
However, the trend of inferior play continued over the remaining 36 holes, with Castillo’s second-round 1-under 71 and Axelsen’s final round 70 being the only two rounds under par for the Gators, who finished the tournament with an 895 total (31 over).
Georgia Tech, who served as the tournament host, ultimately torched the rest of the field by 20 strokes, even without their top player in Andy Ogletree. The senior was in England representing the United States in the Walker Cup, the most prestigious amateur team event in the world, held biannually.
Regardless, senior Yellow Jackets Luke Schniederjans and Tyler Strafaci dominated in his absence, with first and second-place individual finishes, respectively.
As for the Gators, Deacon summarized their current form in a few short words.
“We are a much better team than who showed up this week. It’s time to prove it.”
Follow Jack Braverman on Twitter @jack_braverman. Contact him at [email protected].