The Florida Gators men’s golf team earned its fourth straight win at the VyStar Credit Union Gators Invitational Sunday. Gators’ senior Ricky Castillo, who shot -11 through three rounds, won the individual portion of the tournament after defeating Georgia Southern’s Mason Williams in a playoff.
Throughout the tournament, the weather at Mark Bostick Golf Course was a challenge. Grey skies, wind and rain persisted throughout both days. Still, Castillo and the Gators were able to win their second straight tournament of the spring season following last week’s victory at the Sea Best Invitational.
The veteran Gator, who won this tournament his freshman year, played outstanding all weekend. He shot a 67 (-3) in his first round, 63 (-7) in his second round and 69 (-1) in his third round. In his final hole, Castillo bogeyed and Georgia Southern’s Williams parred, putting them both at -11 and forcing a playoff. In his last tournament, Castillo faced teammate Fred Biondi in a playoff but lost by a stroke. This time, Castillo came away with the win. In the playoff hole, Williams bogeyed and Castillo sank a huge par putt, making him the sole champion of the tournament.
The win marked Castillo’s third individual victory in his collegiate career. His others came at the Sea Best Invitational in 2020 and the Gators Invitational in 2020. Also, his 63 in round two tied his career-low score for 18 holes. Through 54 holes this weekend, Castillo made 14 birdies and only three bogeys; with his first bogey coming on the final hole of round two.
The group of five Gators, led by Castillo, destroyed the rest of the competition. Besides Castillo’s 199 (-11), Yuxin Lin shot a 206 (-4), Fred Biondi shot a 209 (-1), John DuBois shot a 215 (+5) and Matthew Kress shot a 217 (+7), finishing the team at -14. Interestingly, the closest team to the Gators were actually the Gators. Five other members of the team competed on the “Florida B” team led by junior Tyler Wilkes. Wilkes placed a career-best third in the tournament, shooting 204 (-6). Florida “B” finished even at the tournament, earning a second-place finish in the event.
Georgia Southern, led by Williams’ -11, finished third with a final score of +4, and Liberty came in fourth with +5. Both Gators squads completely outmatched their competition, and successfully defended their home course. Expect Wilkes to be part of the main five-man roster after this weekend, likely swapping in for Kress, a redshirt freshman.
Florida has now won both tournaments of the spring season, a feat they also accomplished at the start of last season. In the first two tournaments of the spring, the Gators have won by a combined 41 strokes. J.C. Deacon’s squad is full of veteran talent. Biondi, Castillo and Lin are all ranked in the top 20 on PGATour U. And they are full of young potential, proved by Florida “B”. The ceiling is very high for Florida this season, to say the least.
The Gators’ next outing will be in Las Vegas where they will compete in the Southern Highlands Collegiate on Feb. 26-28 hosted by UNLV. After that, Florida will compete in two more tournaments before beginning postseason play on April 19.