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Friday February 13, 2009UF hosts 32nd Annual SunTrust Gator Invitational this weekend

Gainesville, Fla.

The No. 12/14 University of Florida men’s golf team is hosting the 32nd annual SunTrust Gator Invitational on Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 14-15) at the Mark Bostick Golf Course on the northwest corner of the school’s campus.

 

The tournament has been held every year since 1978, and the Gators have dominated their home event. They have won the title 22 times and have finished lower than third on only one occasion.

 

Florida is coming off their first win of the 2008-09 season after shooting 18-under par 558 last week at the Golden Ocala Collegiate to win by 26 strokes, despite the rainy conditions. Senior Will Strickler (Charlottesville, Va.) earned his first collegiate victory, carding a first-round 68 (-4) and second round 70 (-2) to beat junior teammate Tim McKenney (Scottsdale, Ariz.) by one stroke.

 

“Our kids played among the best golf that I’ve seen from my teams in several years,” said head coach Buddy Alexander on Tuesday at the UF All-Sports Press Conference. “I was excited to see that. I think what we are seeing is the team is not that young anymore. What we are seeing is that this is turning into a competitive group.”

 

The Gators will hope to keep the momentum going when they enter this weekend’s event as Coach Alexander will feature the same lineup that won the title in Ocala. The five players have a collective 125 collegiate tournament appearances between them. Senior Billy Horschel (Grant, Fla.) has made 40 career appearances and classmate Toby Ragland (Jacksonville, Fla.) has played in 34 events for the Orange and Blue. Junior Tyson Alexander (Gainesville, Fla.), McKenney and Strickler round out the lineup. Redshirt sophomore Andres Echavarria (Medellin, Columbia) and freshmen Mu Hu (Shen Zhen, China) and Max Kieffer (Duesseldor, Germany) will play as individuals.

 

“Everyone in the five-man lineup this weekend has played in the NCAA Tournament,” said Coach Alexander. “We have one guy in his fifth year, two guys in their fourth year and two guys in their third year. This is definitely a veteran team. If that is the team that ultimately plays in the postseason, it should serve us well.”

 

This event should serve as a barometer for postseason play, as this year’s field includes 10 teams ranked in the top-50 of the latest Golfweek/Sagarin ratings. Florida is ranked No. 14, the highest among the competing teams. The rest of the field includes No. 20 Chattanooga, No. 55 Coastal Carolina, No. 25 Duke, No. 33 Florida State, No. 50 Georgia Southern, No. 47 Georgia State, No. 31 LSU, No. 35 Ole Miss, No. 67 Mississippi State, No. 88 North Florida, No. 54 UAB, No. 24 UCF and No. 28 Wake Forest.

 

The 2008 Gator Invitational co-medalist, Zach Sucher of UAB, returns to try and defend his title and six of last year’s top-10 will be in the field again this year, including UF’s Alexander (3rd in 2008) and Horschel (T-4th).

 

The first and second rounds of the tournament will be played on Saturday with an 8 a.m. shotgun start. The final round will begin on Sunday at 8 a.m. with an awards ceremony following the conclusion of play. Live scoring will be available online at www.GolfStat.com.

 

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