ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Florida senior Andres Echavarria had qualified to play in the Nationwide Tour’s Fresh Express Classic in California this weekend with a runner-up finish at the tour’s Chitimacha Louisiana Open on March 27. But he already had told Florida men’s head coach Buddy Alexander that he would be with the Gators at the Southeastern Conference Championship instead.
Both men are happy that Echavarria was with the Gators. The Colombian native won the SEC individual title April 17 in a playoff with LSU’s John Peterson and also led Florida to its first men’s team title since 2003. Florida, which entered at No. 5 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, finished at 8-over 848 and defeated No. 3 Alabama by six shots and No. 30 Tennessee by eight.
Echavarria got plenty of help from his teammates, as fellow Gators Phillip Choi (T-3) and Bank Vongvanij (fifth) also finished in the top 5.
Down one shot to Peterson after 71 holes, Echavarria made birdie on the par-4 18th to force extra holes, then won with a par on the first playoff hole, as Peterson three-putted for bogey. Both players finished at 1-under 209 in regulation play.