Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
Florida finished the fall season No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. Based on early results this spring, teams looking to dislodge Florida from that perch better take their games up a notch.
The Gators are holding tight to the top spot after securing their second victory of the spring – and fifth of the season – Feb. 24 at the Westin Rio Mar Puerto Rico Collegiate Challenge.
Florida shot a final- round, 1-over-par 289 for a 9-under 855 total at Rio Mar Country Club. That was one shot better than Clemson, which closed with a 2-under 286, and three in front of second-round leader Oklahoma (295).
“Right now we have everyone playing with a lot of confidence,” said Florida coach Buddy Alexander. “The thing I like about this team is we haven’t had any tournament where we’ve really played poorly. If one guy is struggling, someone seems to step up and take the slack.”
The Gators received solid performances from sophomores Matt Every and Brett Stegmaier, who tied for fifth and shot 69s the final round.
Clemson senior Matt Hendrix, a third-team All-American and U.S. Walker Cup member last year, notched his first college victory when he shot 9-under 207. He finished one stroke better than Oklahoma State freshman Tyler Leon.
Florida registered three birdies on its last hole, Oklahoma came in with a pair of triple bogeys and Clemson received a double bogey from Hendrix, putting a damper on what should have been a proud moment.
“This is definitely more bitter than sweet,” said Hendrix. “It’s hard to feel good about (winning). The bottom line is I didn’t finish the way I should have. It’s my first college win, but right now I really can’t enjoy it. I would have rather had finished 20th if it meant the team won.”
Hendrix nailed his drive on the par-4 18th into the fairway, 163 yards out. He had a 9-iron in his hand, but switched to an 8-iron when the wind in his favor seemed to stop. Just as he hit the shot, the wind kicked in and his ball flew into the hazard behind the green, forcing him to take a drop. His chip shot out of a difficult lie then scooted 25 feet past the hole and he two-putted for double bogey.
While it didn’t cost him medalist honors, it did cost the Tigers the team title. Clemson won its first NCAA Championship last spring but has yet to win a tournament this season, although the Tigers have finished in the top 5 at every event.