The Back Nine comes at you after making some extra room in the trophy case for the one that the Florida men’s tennis team brought home this weekend.
10. Florida’s 4-1 win over Baylor in the national tennis finals wasn’t only about Bryan Shelton becoming the first coach to win the men’s and women’s titles or Florida winning its 42nd national title and its first ever in men’s tennis. It was about a father and son getting to celebrate and accomplish something together. It was fitting that Ben Shelton clinched the match and also fitting that a tournament played in the state of Florida (Lake Nona) was a home-court advantage for the Gators. “The fans were a huge part of it,” said Bryan Shelton. So, pat yourselves on the back, you fans who either made the trip down from Gainesville or just showed up. Florida tennis doesn’t usually draw big crowds but it did this weekend. And go to Floridagators.com and watch the post-match presser with the two Sheltons. It will make you proud to be a Gator. Hey, maybe we could make a sitcom out of that – The Two Sheltons.
11. I asked a few people – including the man who hired him Jeremy Foley – what it was that made the Gators pull the trigger on Shelton. And what came back was that every interview he was involved in he blew people away with his plan and his personality. Foley said he received a text from associate AD Chip Howard during Shelton’s interview that said, “WOW!” When the process was completed, everyone involved was blown away and the director of tennis operations Kate Harte was called to race to the airport and tell Shelton to return to campus because he was the new men’s tennis coach. That was nine years ago and we saw this weekend that Foley and the rest of his staff made a great call. But everyone who has spent any time with that team will tell you that win or lose on Saturday night, Florida tennis is in great hands.
12. You know what else is in great hands? The Wanamaker Trophy. Man, that was so much fun watching Phil Mickelson win his sixth major. That said, I have to point out that about a year ago I wrote that Philly Mick was done, finished, as far as Major golf was concerned. Yet another brilliant call by Prediction Boy. Then, I read that Mickelson sometimes fasts for 36 hours. I’m good with my game right now.
13. I went to the softball game Sunday and saw some history in that there was a no-hitter thrown by Elizabeth Hightower. What is this, Major League Baseball? Just kidding, but the play Hannah Adams made to get the first out in the seventh was major league worthy. Florida vs. Georgia for a trip to Oklahoma City. I’m sure there will be a lot of talk about what happened in 2016 when the Bulldogs walked the Gators off their home field with a home run, but that seems like a hundred years ago. What’s amazing is that this is Florida’s sixth straight Super Regional against an SEC team. That shows you the power of the conference when it comes to softball.
2015 – Kentucky (2-0)
2016 – Georgia (0-2)
2017 – Alabama (2-1)
2018 – Texas A&M (2-1)
2019 – Tennessee (2-1).
All at home, too. Of course, there was no Super Regional last year, but it was sure nice to see a big crowd Sunday.
14. Here is a stat that I’m sure has happened before in college softball because you can ride one pitcher – such as the amazing Georgina Corrick of South Florida – through an entire weekend (she pitched 26 innings and had 32 strikeouts). But in the entire six-game regional in Gainesville, the losing team failed to score. Can’t win if you don’t score. Like I said, I’m sure it has happened before, but it didn’t happen in any other regionals over the weekend.
15. If you were hoping the baseball team could get one in Arkansas, you were left disappointed. And now Florida probably needs to beat Kentucky Tuesday at the SEC Tournament to get to host regionals. I could tell you why this team has underperformed this season, but you have heard it all before.
* Injuries killed the pitching depth.
* The starters weren’t as good as we thought they’d be.
* Too many players trying to show they can play pro ball instead of trying to win college games.
* The league is ridiculously-difficult this year.
* The defense has not looked like a Kevin O’Sullivan defense.
Whatever the reasons, this team is what it is and anyone who thinks a light switch will be flipped and it becomes the team that was preseason No. 1 is dreaming
16. We are really winding down on the sports year for the Gators now that lacrosse was also eliminated over the weekend after another fine season. Sometime soon I will present The Dooleys, awards for athlete and coach and team of the academic year and the 10 best moments and such. Stay tuned.
17. The ”Florida Four” takes you back to when Bryan Shelton was first hired. Although the Gators showed progress, they had double digit losses in four of Shelton’s first six seasons – 2013, ’14, ’17 and ’18. Nobody got out any pitchforks or called radio shows demanding they knew more than the coach. And in his last three seasons, the Gators have been 66-9 and have a national championship. Patience is difficult in collegiate sports. But it’s worth trying.
18. For your Playlist today, we bring you three songs to celebrate the fact that Florida is one of only two schools to win a national title in a sport every year since 2008:
* “Jump Around” by House of Pain.
* “The Distance” by Cake.
* “I Just Want To Celebrate” by Rare Earth.
You don’t need the links. You know these songs.