5 Things: Florida wins SunTrust Gator Invite
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Mark Bostick Golf Course is not a place to walk into blindly, hoping to tee it up and win a golf tournament. As Florida proved Monday at the SunTrust Gator Invitational, it’s especially foolish to think it might happen with the home team running around. The Gators earned their first victory of the season by a convincing 18-shot margin over Florida State at the deceiving Donald Ross design.
Florida set the stage for its commanding victory during Sunday morning’s first round. Despite a windy drizzle, the Gators posted an even-par 280, the best score by 10 shots. With such an early advantage, no other team could muster enough of a charge to catch the home team.
“That round of 280 they played yesterday in the morning was just phenomenal,” said Gators head coach Jan Dowling. “I feel like that round could really boost their confidence and let them know that they can play with a lot of the teams in the country.”
After a second-round 292, Florida returned Monday with a shaky start on the front nine. The Gators pulled it together on the back nine, finished that side at 2 over and were at 25-over 865 for the tournament. The rebound should serve as an indicator of the team’s potential.
“One of our goals was to win this tournament,” Dowling said. “It’s a confidence booster and it’s great to be playing on your home course, but there’s some added pressure and they handled it really well. I’m proud of them for that.”
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More on the Bostick effect: What exactly is it that makes the course so hard? It’s all in the greens, which make for very small targets and tough up-and-downs.
“You put it in the right places it’s scoreable, but when the wind blows and the greens get a little firm, it can be a tough golf course and it does require some local knowledge,” Dowling said.
For Florida sophomore Isabelle Lendl, the best descriptor might just be punitive.
“This golf course is a great golf course because you can have a par 4 where you barely miss it and you make bogey and you’re like, ‘I didn’t do anything wrong. I hit a good miss,’ ” she said. “It’s really penalizing and you really need to think your way around the golf course.”
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Visitors can score, too: For all the talk of the local advantage, that’s not to say a couple of players from out of town can’t find success in Gainesville, too. Such was the case Monday afternoon for Florida State junior Hannah Thomson. The Australian earned the first individual trophy of her collegiate career after ending at even-par 210. She got a big boost from a final-round 1-under 69 that bumped her from third to first.
“It was my goal to win this semester,” Thomson said after the tournament. It nearly got away from her as she bogeyed the first hole, but rebounded to birdie the next three.
Thomson said the victory is a result of increased attention to her short game, an endeavor with which men’s assistant coach Layne Savoie has helped this entire Seminole team. Savoie and women’s assistant coach Lindsay Koth traded places this week, meaning Savoie got to see the work pay off first-hand.
In addition to Thomson, Georgia State junior Charlotte Lorentzen shot 6-under 64 during the second round of a 36-hole Sunday. Lorentzen carded seven birdies as she shaved 10 shots off her first-round 74.
A final-round 78 put Lorentzen at 216 and in a tie for third.
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Staying power: For the first time in three starts this spring, all eyes weren’t on Iowa State during the final round. The Cyclones never got closer than third after beginning the final round in fourth – a distant 24 shots behind Florida. The Cyclones may not have contended for a third week in a row, but it was far from a blow-up. The team finished T-6 during a week when many other teams in the field also struggled.
“We didn’t play very well this week, it was kind of disappointing,” said head coach Christie Martens.
While the early success of this season hasn’t gone to Iowa State’s collective heads, it has changed players’ outlooks. This is a team that can close out the season as a perennial contender.
“Just for the mind-set of our players just to go in knowing that every week, they should be in contention – I think that gives them a lot more confidence,” Martens said.
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Eyes on the future: Arkansas showed significant improvement in its second start of the spring season. The Razorbacks finished fifth in Gainesville, after hovering near the top of the leaderboard for much of the final round. They were 11th at the Central District Invitational on Feb. 22 as they shook off the winter rust.
“We’ve gotten off to a little bit of a rough start, but this is a good group and they’re very talented and this is a tricky golf course,” said head coach Shauna Estes-Taylor. “You have to figure out a way to get around on it.”
Like any good coach, Estes-Taylor is a forward-thinking one. The Gators’ playground is the site of the 2013 SEC Championship, and Estes-Taylor wanted her team to get a good look at the venue (see above emphasis on home-course advantage).
“The more you can play it and the more you learn, the better you’re going to be on it,” she said.