SEC men’s golf awards: Castillo highlights Gator group as SEC Freshman of Year

Florida freshman Ricky Castillo watches his putt at the ninth hole of the TPC Sawgrass Dye's Valley Course. The putt missed but Castillo went on to shoot 67 in the round to finish in a tie for third. [Garry Smits/Florida Times-Union]

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Three members of the Florida men’s golf team received Southeastern Conference honors, the league office announced Wednesday.

Ricky Castillo headlined the group as he was named the SEC Freshman of the Year, earning a spot on both the All-SEC First Team and All-Freshman Team. Along with Castillo, junior John Axelsen also earned First Team honors, while redshirt sophomore Manny Girona was tabbed to the Community Service Team.

Castillo becomes the ninth player in program history to be selected as the SEC Freshman of the Year, and second under coach JC Deacon.

Castillo was dominant. Over his 21 rounds played, Castillo posted the lowest single-season scoring average in program history at 70.08. Individually, he finished inside the top 25 at every event with all 21 of his rounds included in the UF’s counting scores.

Castillo opened the spring with back-to-back individual titles, claiming the crown at the Sea Best Invitational and VyStar Gators Invitational by a combined 11 strokes. The Yorba Linda, Calif., native then followed those performances with an impressive 5-under 211 at Southern Highlands Collegiate to tie for sixth. Through his nine rounds of the spring, Castillo shot a collective 26 under with a scoring average of 67.78.

Castillo’s conference honors follow his selection as the Phil Mickelson Outstanding Freshman Award Recipient, Ben Hogan Award Finalist, NCAA Division I PING All-Southeast Region honors and NCAA Division I PING First Team All-American.

In his junior season, Axelsen provided a consistent and reliable presence for the Gators. Through seven events, the junior notched six top-15 finishes, including three top-three performances.

Axelsen was also named to the 2020 NCAA Division I PING All-America First Team, to the 2020 PING All-Region Team and to the Haskins Award Final Watch List

For the second consecutive year, Girona’s contributions off the course earned him a spot on the SEC Community Team.

This season, Girona was earned the Pete Fox Award, given to the Florida men’s golfer who exemplifies how Florida alumni Pete Fox lived his life – with selflessness, generosity, character and an understanding of the value of every day. Additionally, Girona was heavily involved in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and also participated in Climb for Cancer, a foundation that works to improve the mental, physical and social well-being of cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers.

Girona competed in three events for the Gators during the 2019-20 season, appearing in the lineup once. Over nine rounds played, the Windermere, Fla., native recorded a scoring average of 76.