They all had one trait in common: a passion for the University of Florida men’s and women’s golf programs.
“This day means everything to our programs,” UF men’s coach J.C. Deacon said. “Many people are proud of where our programs are at right now.”
The Florida men’s team won the NCAA championship for the first time in 22 years earlier this year. In an event coordinated by the boosters to support the program, Gators Golf Day teed off under sunny skies on Friday, and plenty of familiar faces made the rounds.
The annual event features current and former Gators golfers playing with boosters to raise money for the men’s and women’s golf teams.
Gator Golf Booster President Chris Lembo appreciated those who turned out or made contributions.
“A lot of alumni made their way back to Gainesville to participate,” Lembo said. “Ricky Castillo and Yuxin Lin, two players from last year’s championship team, could not make it today, but both of them sent their golf bags as a donation to the fundraiser.”
Participating in Gators Golf Day is not something new to Matthew Kress, a UF sophomore from Saratoga, Calif. Kress was part of the championship-winning team last season. He considers this the most important day of the year for the Gators besides competing for the national championship, and as reigning NCAA men’s champions, it made this year’s event more meaningful.
And while the Gators have gotten off to a slow start this fall, Kress said they have the same amount of firepower as last season.
“There is going to be some growing pains,” Kress said. “We have a bunch of new guys this year who are good but lack the experience of playing golf in this type of environment.”
This year’s tournament featured an exceptional group of Gator alumni.
Sarah Gallagher, who won the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Champion title in early October, played for the Gators in the early 1990s.
“It is important for current players to see past Gators come back and support the program,” Gallagher said. “Reuniting in Gainesville with my old teammates and sharing memories of our years here is a unique opportunity.”
Not every former Gators athlete in attendance played golf at UF. Shane Matthews is known as the two-time Southeastern…