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Senior Ari Savolainen recorded his second top-10 finish of the spring by tying for ninth.

Sunday March 23, 2003Men's Golf Finishes 4th At Schenkel Invitational

Statesboro, GA

Senior Ari Savolainen recorded his second top-10 finish of the spring by tying for ninth.

The No. 9 University of Florida men's golf team finished fourth at the Chris Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational for the second straight year, as the Gators shot an impressive final round 283 (-5) to finish with an 858 (-6) Sunday at the Forest Heights Country Club in Statesboro, Ga. Three Gators finished in the top-20 of the individual standings, as Florida made a jump of ten spots from their 14th place finish two weeks ago at the Las Vegas Intercollegiate.

UF, which was at -5, found itself trailing by five strokes behind third place Auburn (-10) with six holes left to play. But Florida ended up shooting a one-under the rest of the way, while the Tigers faltered by shooting a combined six-over during the final six holes to finish fifth at 860 (-4).

"It's not where we want to be, because you want to finish higher," Gator Head Coach Buddy Alexander said. "But it's definitely a step in the right direction following our performance two weeks ago in Las Vegas."

The Gators shot even-or-under par in all three rounds, marking the first time since the 2002 Augusta State Invitational that Florida accomplished the feat. UF also finished fourth in that tournament.

Florida was led by senior Ari Savolainen (Helsinki, Finland), who finished in a tie for ninth at -4 (212). Savolainen jumped up ten spots during the final day as he shot a final round 68 (-4). The finish marked the second top-10 finish of the spring for Savolainen, and his final round 68 was the first time in the last six rounds that a Gator shot in the 60s.

"I'm pleased to see that Ari played really well this weekend," Alexander added. "He is vital to the success that we as a team want to achieve. He's had success in the past and there is no reason to believe that he can't do it again."

Following Savolainen was junior Camilo Villegas (Medellin, Colombia). Villegas, who finished tied for 61st two weeks ago at the Las Vegas Intercollegiate, responded strong by finishing in a tie for 12th at -2 (214). A finalist for the 2003 Ben Hogan National College Player of the Year Award, Villegas shot a final round 72 (E), as he shot even-or-under par in all three rounds in a tournament for the first time since last May's Atlanta Intercollegiate. It was the sixth time in his remarkable career that Villegas shot even-or-under par in every round of a tournament.

Rounding out the list of Gators that finished in the top-20 was freshman James Vargas (Miami, Fla.), who finished in a tie for 20th at 216 (E). Vargas, who entered the day in a tie for 41st at +4 (148), shot a four-under 68. It marked the fourth time in five tournaments this spring that Vargas finished in the top-20 of the individual standings.

Fellow freshman Brett Stegmaier (Madison, Conn.) tied for 35th at +3 (219). Stegmaier had tough second day as he shot a 75 (+3) after staying at even-par the first two rounds. In addition to Stegmaier, senior Dalton Melnyk (Jacksonville, Fla.) finished in a tie for 58th at +9 (225), as he shot a final round 75 (+3).

Wake Forest won the team title with an 844 (-20). The top-ranked Clemson Tigers finished second at -17 (847), while Southeastern Conference rival Georgia shot a final round 278 (-10) to jump to third at 854 (-10).

The Gators will be back in action Sunday, Apr. 20, as they take part in a one-round preview tournament at the Auburn University Golf Course. The course will be the host to one of the 2003 NCAA Regionals, May 15-16. The regional was originally scheduled to be played at the Yale Golf Course in New Haven, Conn., but was changed due to renovations to the course. The one-round preview will begin at 8 a.m.

TEAM STANDINGS

1. Wake Forest 285-284-275=844 (-20)

2. Clemson 281-286-280=847 (-17)

3. Georgia 289-287-278=854 (-10)

4. FLORIDA 287-288-283=858 (-6)

5. Auburn 286-285-289=860 (-4)

6. North Carolina State 288-287-286=861 (-3)

7. South Carolina 293-287-289=869 (+5)

8. North Carolina 293-288-291=872 (+8)

9. East Tennessee State 291-302-280=873 (+9)

10. Augusta State 290-296-291=877 (+13)

11. Georgia Southern 299-292-288=879 (+15)

12. LSU 296-297-287=880 (+16)

13. Tennessee 290-296-297=883 (+19)

14. Duke 293-297-297=887 (+23)

15. Ohio State 302-305-292=899 (+35)

FLORIDA RESULTS

T9. Ari Savolainen 74-70-68=212 (-4)

T12. Camilo Villegas 72-70-72=214 (-2)

T20. James Vargas 73-75-68=216 (E)

T35. Brett Stegmaier 71-73-75=219 (+3)

T58. Dalton Melnyk 71-79-75=225 (+9)

-UF-

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