PHOTO CREDIT: Parker Waters/UAA Communications

Florida women’s golf gears up to win at home for fourth consecutive time

Florida women’s golf hopes third time’s a charm turns into a fourth in the comfort of their home course this weekend.

The three-time defending champions will return to Mark Bostick Golf Course for the 47th edition of the Florida Gators Invitational. And keeping victory at home is a realistic scenario; the field is absent of SEC competition, with No. 8 Florida leading all 13 teams in the NCAA Division I team rankings.

Back to the beginning

After a dismal start in California at the Northrop Gruman Regional Challenge, the squad is slowly returning to form. Sure, the team who entered the season ranked number three in the nation failed to defend their title at the AllState Sugar Bowl in mid-February. But a tie for fourth finish indicates a step in the right direction.

That effort was spearheaded by sophomore Addie Baggarly, who tied for first in the individual leaderboard at even par; her 12 birdies helped carry the team within the top five. The monumental finish awarded her an SEC Women’s Golfer of the Week accolade and propelled her to the top of the Florida Gator Invitational team lineup. But what’s been the key to the role player’s progression?

“We talk a lot about the process with her because she’s very talented,” said head coach Emily Glaser. “We talk a lot about controlling the things she can control and trying not to worry about other things.”

Surely, familiarity will be of no concern to the emerging leader. For Baggarly, home-field advantage is an understatement. She spent her early childhood on Mark Bostick with her father Mark Baggarly, who was a part of the 1993 Florida Gators men’s golf national title team.

Presence of leadership

Glaser is well aware of the dynamic talent in her team’s veteran leadership. For the next two years, juniors Sierra Brooks, Marta Perez and Carlotta Ricolfi all take the reins, with no seniors present on the roster.

So far, Glaser has been nothing short of impressed.

“They’ve done a really good job of leading, but in their own style,” Glaser said. “We have really contrasting styles, which I think has been great for the team.”

For Glaser, her shift in perspective towards the home tournament has been crucial to the team’s repeated success.

“As a young coach, it was a hard week, because you’re running a tournament and there’s a lot of things going on,” Glaser said. “Now I’ve learned to appreciate it for what it is, which is a really exciting fun week. I think if we embrace it as a fun week and feel grateful for the opportunity, we’re gonna do very well.”

Examining the field

While Florida leads the field in team rankings, No. 24 Miami presents an interesting young challenge. Freshman Anna Backman falls just outside of the top-30 ranked female NCAA golfers at No. 31, hot off of an ACC Golfer of the Month award. Her stellar spring campaign includes an individual title and a top-10 finish.

Catch the action

The 54-hole stroke play tournament will tee off Saturday, March 9 at 9 a.m. The first 36 holes of competition will be played Saturday, while the last 18 conclude on Sunday, March 10.

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