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Tuesday February 19, 2008Strickler Earns Runner-Up Finish, No. 9 Men's Golf Takes Fifth At John Hayt Invitational

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.

Junior Will Strickler (Charlottesville, Va.) recorded his first career runner-up finish as the No. 9 University of Florida men’s golf team closed with a tournament-low 288 to take fifth place at the John Hayt Invitational at the Sawgrass Country Club.


The Gators, who entered the day in 10th place, improved five spots to tie for fifth with third-ranked Charlotte following a 25-over 54-hole total of 889. Florida’s even-par 288 on Tuesday was the lowest round of any team in the field all week.

 

“Coming from 10th (place), it was a pretty good day,” said UF head coach Buddy Alexander. “Hopefully, we will learn some things and continue to get better. Today was the best day of play. We needed it.”

No. 2 Alabama completed a wire-to-wire finish to claim the tournament title for the second consecutive season. The Crimson Tide’s 9-over 873 bested No. 5 UCLA’s tally by four shots (877). Alabama posted a 2-over 290 in the final round. Tournament host North Florida and No. 10 Tennessee shared third place with 13-over totals of 886.

 

Strickler, playing as an individual, finished off a brilliant week with a 1-under 71 that put him at 2-under 214 overall with UCLA’s Jason Kang and North Florida’s Michael O’Neal. Georgia State’s Joel Sjoholm shot his third straight under par round and closed with a 2-under 70 to take individual medal honors by five shots. Sjoholm’s 54-hole 209 (-7) was the third lowest winning score in tournament history.

 

Strickler, who entered the day tied for third, gave an early stroke back with a bogey on No. 11 but answered with a birdie on the par-4 14th hole. At the turn, the junior picked up a stroke on No. 1 and later carded his third red figure of the week at No. 8 with a birdie four. He putted out for a bogey seven on the last but secured his fourth round under par for the season.

“He played well in an amateur tournament in January,” said Alexander. “He played well in the Gator (Invitational). Obviously, what we are seeing from Will is the emergence of a pretty darn good player. We need another guy to step up, and I couldn’t be happier for Will. It is a good plus for our team.”

Strickler’s tie for second place was the lowest finish of his career. His previous best finish was a tie for fourth at the 2007 Gator Invitational. It marked the second straight week and fifth time this season a Florida player earned a top-five placing.

Senior Tyler Brown (Jacksonville, Fla.), playing in front of family and friends, claimed sole possession of seventh place behind a 2–under 68 in the final round. Brown’s cumulative total of even-par 216 propelled him to his highest finish of the season. Brown’s scorecard featured three birdies to one bogey. He was 3-under on the day heading into his final hole before giving a stroke back on the par-4 ninth with a six. 

 

“He knew the golf course and felt comfortable this week,” said Alexander. “He played a good, solid round again today. He’s got some experience, and he’s a senior. He putts the ball really well, and when his ball striking is good, he can be effective.”

Florida and Alabama were the only two schools to have multiple players finish in the individual top 10. It represented the third time this season the Gators placed at least two players in the top 10 and the first on the road since the season-opening Inverness Invitational.

 

Senior Manuel Villegas (Medellin, Colombia) carded his lowest round of the tournament with a 1-over 73 on Tuesday. Villegas entered the day in 22nd place and finished in a tie for 16th with a 54-total of 221 (+5). Villegas opened his round with a three on the par-4 10th, and he later added a birdie three on the 17th to go with three bogeys.

Freshman Bank Vongvanij (Bradenton, Fla.) improved 15 spots after coming into the final 18 holes in 53rd. Vongvanij’s 1-over 73 put him at 10-over 226 for the tournament to finish in a tie for 38th.  

 

He was joined in 38th by junior Billy Horschel (Grant, Fla.), who fired an even-par 72 in the final round. Horschel was 1-under for the day after rolling in a birdie four on the par-5 eighth, but he dropped back to even with a bogey five on the par-4 ninth. The two-time All-American finished with a 54-hole tally of 226 (+10) and improved 19 spots from Monday’s position.

 

Sophomore Tyson Alexander (Gainesville, Fla.) finished in 80th after closing with an 80. Alexander posted a tournament total of 242 (+26).

Florida resumes its season when it competes at the Southern Highlands Collegiate in Las Vegas, Nev., March 7-9. The tournament will be played on the par-72 Southern Highlands course.

Final Team Scores

Place

School

Score

1.

Alabama

290-293-290 = 873 (+9)

2.

UCLA

295-293-289 = 877 (+13)

T3.

North Florida

296-289-301 = 886 (+22)

T3.

Tennessee

291-300-295 = 886 (+22)

T5.

Florida  

296-305-288 = 889 (+25)

T5.

Charlotte 

295-296-298 = 889 (+25)

T7.

UAB    

301-295-297 = 893 (+29)

T7.

Coastal Carolina   

306-298-289 = 893 (+29)

T9.

Pepperdine   

294-298-302 = 894 (+30)

T9.

Georgia State    

296-296-302 = 894 (+30)

11.

South Carolina

300-294-301 = 895 (+31)

12.

Indiana

302-301-297 = 900 (+36)

T13.

UCF   

306-300-295 = 901 (+37)

T13.

Vanderbilt

302-302-297 = 901 (+37)

15.

Notre Dame 

306-301-296 = 903 (+39)

 

Final Individual Top 10

Place

Player (School)

Score

1.

Joel Sjoholm (Georgia State)

69-70-70 = 209 (-7)

T2.

Will Strickler (Florida)

71-72-71 = 214 (-2)

T2.

Michael O’Neal (North Florida)

70-76-68 = 214 (-2)

T2.

Jason Kang (UCLA)

70-72-72 = 214 (-2)

T5.

Mark Harrell (Alabama)

72-71-72 = 215 (-1)

T5.

Michael Thompson (Alabama)

72-71-72 = 215 (-1)

7.

Tyler Brown (Florida)  

71-75-70 = 216 (E)

8.

Jesse Barnsley (Pepperdine)

72-72-73 = 217 (+1)

 

Final Florida Results

Place

Player

Score

T2.

Will Strickler (Individual)  

71-72-71 = 214 (-2)

7.

Tyler Brown

71-75-70 = 216 (E)

T16.

Manuel Villegas

74-74-73 = 221 (+5)

T38.

Billy Horschel  

77-77-72 = 226 (+10)

T38.

Bank Vongvanij

74-79-73 = 226 (+10)

80.

Tyson Alexander  

83-79-80 = 242 (+26)

 

 

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