Florida women’s golf is on the road again, this time with an SEC challenge on its hands.
After keeping the Florida Gator Invitational title safe at home and a two-week break from competition, Florida will participate in the Evans Derby Experience, hosted by Auburn at the Saugahatchee Country Club.
The tournament is a 54-hole stroke play three-round format, taking place over the course of three days.
Ideally, they’ll look to convert the positive energy from the home win to make up for a mediocre tie for sixth finish last spring.
An SEC-filled field…and more
The Evans Derby field has no shortage of SEC teams. Aside from the host, Florida has five other SEC teams it will compete with; defending champion No. 8 Arkansas, No. 9 South Carolina, No. 18 Alabama No. 41 Ole Miss and No. 45 Mississippi State.
Last year, Arkansas ran away with a nine-under cushion. Seniors Maria Fassi, Dylan Kim and Kaylee Benton return to protect the title.
Arguably, the real challenge lies in the individual ACC competition. Florida State freshman Frida Kinhult, ranked second in the nation, and Duke sophomore Jaravee Boonchant, ranked third, take the field. Florida’s Addie Baggarly will be grouped beside Boonchant for the weekend.
Can the Gators capitalize?
In configuring its identity, Florida is honing in on another win on its journey to the NCAA Championship.
Sophomore Addie Baggarly has accumulated an individual tie for first and a tie for second finish this season. Down the stretch, her strong play has been a major contributing factor in team finishes.
Perhaps the Gators Invitational was the familiar reset the team needed. The Gators head into Evans Derby with its starting five ranked in the top-100 in the NCAA. The rankings are as follows: No. 42 Marta Perez, No. 48 Sierra Brooks, No. 68 Baggarly, No. 80 Clara Manzalini and No. 86 Elin Esborn.
This is the last regular season tournament juniors Brooks and Perez will compete in before heading to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
But that doesn’t deter Brooks’ focused mentality.
“I think everyone’s pretty determined,” Brooks said. “We know what we have to do, and we all want it really bad.”
Follow the action
The Evans Derby Experience will tee off Saturday, March 23 at 9 a.m. with competition concluding on Monday, March 25.