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A stacked field could not stop the Gators, as Florida went on a run of birdies and eagles to cruise to the title at the inaugural Trinity Forest Invitational.
More than half the field bettered par Tuesday at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, but nobody did it better than Florida, as the Gators closed in 9-under 275, the round of the day, for a 10-shot victory.
The Gators’ 17-under total was the only one double digits under par. Auburn and Texas Tech tied for second at 7 under, with Texas fourth at 5 under, USC fifth at 3 under and Clemson and North Texas tied for sixth at 1 under.
USC’s Justin Suh captured the individual title at 10 under, closing in 4-under 67 to go from co-leader to three-shot victory. This is the junior’s second college win.
The Gators opened the season by leading the Carpet Capital Collegiate through 36 holes before faltering on the final day to a T-5 finish.
This time, Florida entered the final 18 tied for the lead (with Auburn) and left no doubt with a final round that included two eagles and 16 birdies among its counting scorers. The dominant last 18 to move from tied at the top to a 10-shot cushion was especially impressive considering the field had eight of Golfweek‘s preseason top 30 (including the No. 4 Gators).
“Today was an amazing day for our team,” Head Coach J.C. Deacon said in a release. “We’ve been working so hard to be patient and discipline in the big moments and we did exactly that today.”
Gordon Neale was certainly the biggest contributor Tuesday, as the junior birdied five in a six-hole stretch on the front nine and went birdie-par-eagle at Nos. 12-14 on the way to a bogey-free 8-under 63 (the round of the day by three shots). The hot round jumped Neale 20 spots to solo second at 7 under.
The other low round for the Gators went to Andy Zhang. The sophomore made an eagle and four birdies to offset a double bogey and close in 4-under 67 – good enough to jump him five spots to a tie for third at 6 under. Senior Alejandro Tosti (T-20, 1 over) and freshmen Chris Nido (T-29, 3 over) and John Axelsen (T-49, 7 over) rounded out the Gators’ starting lineup by all closing in 75 or better.
Auburn, Golfweek‘s preseason No. 14, and preseason No. 20 Texas Tech, which jumped four spots to T-2 after closing in 7-under 277, each had one player in the top 10. For the Tigers, Brandon Mancheno (T-3, under) posted the low score, and the Red Raiders had Fredrik Nilehn (T-8, 3 under) in front.
Clemson had the day’s second-best score with an 8-under 276. Rounds of 67 from Kyle Cottam (T-3, 6 under) and Bryson Nimmer (seventh, 4 under) paved the way there.
Host SMU finished 12th in the 13-team field, posting at 22 over. McClure Meissner (sixth, 5 under) had the best showing from that group.