Last season, then-junior Sierra Brooks torched the rest of the field on her way to a seven-stroke individual victory at the Cougar Classic. Rounds of 65 and 62 – the latter setting a course record – also led Florida to a team victory in its annual season opener in South Carolina.
Florida’s women’s golf team finished 11th at last season’s NCAA Championships, riding a second-place individual finish from Brooks. Every single player from that roster remains on the team, the lone change to the squad being the addition of freshman Marina Escobar Domingo, the No. 141 amateur in the world.
Brooks has one more year at Florida to add to an already decorated resumé. The senior was recently named to the Preseason ANNIKA Award Watch List, given annually to the most outstanding female collegiate golfer. Last season, she led the Gators in stroke average (72.59) and contended in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
As for her team, the Gators will begin the year ranked No. 12 in the Golfweek rankings. They begin competition Monday at the 2019 Cougar Classic, hosted by the College of Charleston.
The men’s team, which ended last season in rather disappointing fashion, can only improve upon a team that failed to qualify for the NCAA Championships as it fell short in regional competition.
Such exasperation was expressed by coach J.C. Deacon soon after failing to reach the NCAA.
“Today ends a very frustrating season,” Deacon said. “Every year our expectations are to win championships, and we did not meet those expectations this year.”
However, what Deacon and his team failed to achieve on the course, they made up for on the recruitment trail.
The addition of freshman Ricky Castillo, currently the sixth-ranked amateur in the world, should make a significant impact as soon as Friday when Florida opens its season for the fifth-consecutive year at the Carpet Capital Collegiate in Dalton, Georgia.
Castillo, who already boasts a more successful amateur career than most of his teammates, was named to the Preseason Haskins Award Watch List among the nation’s best amateur players. The two-time AJGA Rolex First Team All-American should remain one of the top amateurs in the world during his tenure at Florida.
Youth is a trend that should bode well for the Gators this year.
Aside from Castillo, freshman Quentin Debove of Paris, sophomore Eugene Hong and juniors John Axelson and Chris Nido round out this weekend’s starting lineup.
With an improved roster and the agony of last season’s early exit in the peripheral, expect the men to earn some early victories this fall.
Follow Jack Braverman on Twitter @jack_braverman. Contact him at [email protected].