NCAA Golf News

For Dudley Hart, a Different Kind of ‘Gap Year’

For Dudley Hart, a Different Kind of 'Gap Year'

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Dudley Hart was a little hesitant to talk about it.
“I’m kind of superstitious,” he said. 
Hart, one of the greatest golfers in Florida history and now associate head coach of the Gators men’s team, needed a 42 to meet one of his lifetime goals. A 42, you say? Hart, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, probably hasn’t shot a 42 on a back nine since he was a yay-high kid growing up in Rochester, N.Y.  

Dudley Hart

Except this wasn’t golf. Hart, who wrapped his UF Hall-of-Fame career way back in 1990, was back on the other side of the player-coach relationship earlier this week. Hart had just turned in a 28-page research paper that focused on the Erie Canal corridor and the effects the abolitionist movement had on the Northeast on the way to becoming an economic and industrial power. A couple of Hart’s players showed him an app that helped compute what grade he needed to complete work on the history degree he fell several credits shy of when turning pro more after his decorated Gators career more than 30 years ago. 



Here’s betting Hart, now 55, holes out what would appear to be a tap-in for the right to graduate from the school he loves. 


“This isn’t going to change my life’s trajectory, not at my age, but it was something I preached to my kids – that they had to get a degree – or they would throw it in my face,” Hart said. “Honestly, I’m one of those guys who’s not great about starting something and not finishing it. I guess I just took a 35-year gap year.”


Ask him and Hart will admit he wasn’t a great student back in the day. His emphasis (and passion) was golf. His senior year, the Gators finished second in both the Southeastern Conference and NCAA Championships. Then he embarked on an 18-year PGA career that included 55 top-10 finishes and three tournament titles. Along the way, he was inducted into the UF Hall of Fame in 2003. 


Chronic back trouble, however, plagued Hart over the final six years of his time on the tour. A series of surgeries and series of comeback attempts later, he walked away from his playing career and in 2017 came to UF as a volunteer assistant coach alongside JC Deacon. In 2021, Deacon promoted Hart to the full-time assistant’s post, with the caveat – and promise made to Athletic Director Scott Stricklin – he would finish work toward his degree. 


In the years since, Hart had a weighty hand in pushing the 2023 Gators to their epic…


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