UF men hosting SunTrust Gator Invitational
Published: Friday, February 8, 2013 at 8:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 8, 2013 at 10:19 p.m.
The expectations are high for the Florida men's golf team based on the golfers Buddy Alexander returns and the way they played during the four-tournament fall season.
WHAT: SunTrust Gator Invitational
WHEN: Play begins at 8 a.m.
WHERE: Mark Bostick Golf Course
But this weekend at the SunTrust Gator Invitational, the expectations are cautious to say the least.
“We're a walking M*A*S*H unit,” Alexander said.
Another strong field will tee it up this morning for 36 holes at the University Golf Club. Of the 14 teams who played in last year's event, eight of them made the NCAA finals.
That included Florida, which finished in a tie for 12th in what was a rebuilding year for Alexander.
Florida is ranked third, fourth and fifth in the three major collegiate golf polls, but the team Alexander is putting on the course today has been dealing with adversity.
“I have been the luckiest guy in America in terms of injuries and illness throughout my career,” Alexander said. “So I'm not complaining. And better now than in April and May.”
Sophomore Ben Banks, UF's No. 4 player as a freshman, underwent open heart surgery to repair a hole in his heart in June and has been battling expected symptoms during the recovery, such as high blood pressure and a rapid heart beat.
He will play today but as an individual after finishing sixth in team qualifying.
“It was a tough call,” Alexander said.
With Banks out of the five-man lineup, Billy Anderson will get his first start as a Gator. Anderson is a junior college transfer from DeLand who won the junior college championship in 2011 for Brevard Junior College.
Senior T.J. Vogel, who leads the Gators in scoring average this season at 72.3, had surgery for a sports hernia in December and was out for five weeks. Upon his return, he came down with the flu and was bedridden most of this week. If Vogel can't go today, Banks will slide into his spot.
Senior Tyler McCumber also was hit by the flu and just resumed hitting balls on Wednesday.
Sophomores Santiago Gavino and Oak Hall graduate J.D. Tomlinson as well as senior Tommy Mou are good to go.
“We felt like we had the best team going into the tournament and we're on our home course,” Alexander said. “With the situation we have, it doesn't change your hope, but realistically you don't have the same expectations.
“You can't help but wonder if some guys are going to wear down in the second round (today).”
The field will play 36 holes today and 18 on Sunday. Defending champ Auburn is not in the field, but defending runner-up Arkansas is along with several of the top schools in the state.
Florida is coming off a fall season when the Gators finished second in two tournaments and opened the season with a win at The Invitational at The Ocean Course in South Carolina.
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