So far this season, Florida has succeeded in delivering a message of dominance. The Gators aren’t the top-ranked team in the country – that honor goes to Washington – but at No. 5 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, they are tops in the SEC, one of the deepest conferences in the nation. On Jan. 28, Florida also proved to be the best team in, well, Florida.
The Gators claimed victory No. 3 on the season at the Florida Challenge, a matchup of some of the top Division I teams in the Sunshine State (Florida, Florida State, Miami, Central Florida and South Florida). Florida finished the 36-hole day at 586, nine shots ahead of Florida State. For the sake of comparison, Florida’s 18-hole team scores of 292 and 294 at Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto, Fla., are just above the team’s fall average of 289.9.
Head coach Emily Bastel said her players were eager to get back to the course after a winter away from competition.
“Any time you compete, you learn a little bit more about what you need to work on,” she said. “We will use the Florida Challenge to pinpoint some of those things and keep working. I think this event got the girls excited to hit the road again.”
After winning the Cougar Classic and Betsy Rawls Invitational in the fall, Florida will not only have high expectations in the spring but a target on its back. The Gators haven’t won the SEC Championship since 2008.
Isabelle Lendl and Camilla Hedberg ended the fall season ranked Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, in Golfweek‘s rankings. One of those two players finished with at least a share of medalist honors in every Gators start. How long that streak can stay alive is arguably one of the most intriguing storylines in the nation entering the spring season.
Though Bastel expects Lendl and Hedberg to continue to lead the way in the spring, Florida’s effort is a balanced one. The early scouting report from Bastel is that senior Mia Piccio could play a bigger part in the second half of the season.
“Piccio will play a huge role for us,” she said. “She is very talented and due to break out at any time.”
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Where it stands now
Top of the class: Florida
Best player in the fall: Isabelle Lendl, Florida
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