NCAA Golf News

Harry Fodder: “Big-Boy Golf” – Florida Gators

Harry Fodder: "Big-Boy Golf" - Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida golf team’s flight home landed in Orlando around 12:30 a.m. Thursday. By then, of course, all the popular theme parks in town were closed, but as far as Coach J.C. Deacon was concerned no thrill ride at Disney, Universal or Sea World could have matched the rollercoaster the Gators took at the NCAA Bath Regional this week that culminated with a stirring, spectacular comeback Wednesday at Eagle Eye Golf Club.

UF, seeded second in the regional and ranked 10th in the country, entered Wednesday’s third and final round seven shots behind the top-five cut line and answered the challenge by posting a Round 3-best 12-under team score that netted a fourth-place finish and advanced the Gators to the NCAA Championships next week at Grayhawk in Scottsdale, Ariz. 

“The last seven holes, we just went off,” Deacon said late Wednesday night. “I mean, it was big-boy golf. We played like a championship team.” 

And like a poised, mature team, led by a trio of seniors in Fred Biondi, Ricky Castillo and Yuxin Lin, each of whom finished the tournament at 4-under (tying for 11th individually), including Lin’s blistering round of 66 on the final day. 

It was a performance befitting the team that on April 23 captured the program’s first Southeastern Conference crown since 2011, when it upset top-ranked Vanderbilt in the match-play final to give Deacon his first league title. Now the Gators have some momentum — not to mention another reference point for when their backs are against the wall — as they head to the NCAA Championships for a record 56th time, including the fifth time under Deacon. 

This squad will go as one of his favorites to date. 

“They just keep doing it,” Deacon said. “Everything I ask of them, they answer the call.”

Their ability to focus on the next shot and move on from adversity has proved to be elite. 

The Gators opened the regional Monday with a thud, sitting dead-last — behind even Purdue-Fort Wayne — among the 13-team field through nine holes after shooting a collective 3-over. UF flipped the script on the back nine, keyed by rounds of 69 from Biondi and Castillo, to post a 4-under score of 280, which had the team in seventh place, including a shot back of Oregon and Little Rock, who shared the No. 5 spot that represented the cut line to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

Gators senior Fred Biondi, who kept his team in the hunt with scores of 69 and 68 in rounds 1 and 2 at regional, lines up a putt…


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