Photo courtesy of UAA Communications

Preview: Gators men’s golf dialing in on victory on home turf

Gordon Neale and company will return to the familiar greens of Mark Bostick Golf Course on Feb. 16-17 for the annual Florida Gators Invitational.

The tournament is a 54-hole stroke play format, played in three rounds over the course of two days. The first two rounds will take place on Saturday, with the final round played on Sunday.

In their conquest to reverse the results (or lack thereof) that the fall season produced, the Gators enter the second stop of the spring with the upper hand.

Stacking up to the competition

A third-place team finish in the season opener at Sea Best Invitational put the team in a favorable position. The team ranked No. 46 coming into the season. Their success at Sea Best enabled them to jump to No. 33.

With that ranking in mind, there are 14 teams in this year’s Florida Gators Invitational field. But only two teams rank ahead of the Gators: North Florida, who finished five strokes ahead of Florida at Sea Best at second, and Liberty, who finished three strokes behind Florida for fourth.

The Gators’ lineup seems carefully crafted for the challenge. Neale, who earned a T2 individual finish at Sea Best, will play his final Florida Gators Invitational.

Head coach J.C. Deacon, who recruited Neale to the Gators, is well aware of how important the senior’s presence on the course will be this upcoming weekend.

“There won’t be anyone in this field whose played the golf course more than Gordon has these past four years,” Deacon said. “He knows every inch of this place and every shot he needs to hit, so it’s just a matter of going out there, controlling his emotions and executing.”

Beside Neale is John Axelsen, who ranks highest nationally among the entire team at No 124. Eugene Hong, Chris Nido and Manny Girona round out the team lineup. Each competed at Sea Best, but the only other Gator who placed within the individual top 25 was Girona.

Among the Gators competing individually include Ryan Celano, Blake Dyer, Aden Ye and Robby Eisch.

Winning at home?

The last time the Gators won at home was 2011, three years before Deacon became head coach. Even so, Deacon is well aware of how much the tournament at home means to the team.

“It’s a big week … tournament golf, you have to prepare really well and have your entire game in good shape,” Deacon said.

He feels confident in his team’s preparation for the big weekend.

“I know that they’re giving themselves every chance to be successful this weekend, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach,” Deacon said.

Catch the action

Play at Mark Bostick Golf Course begins on Saturday, Feb. 16 with a shotgun start at 8 a.m.

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