Record lifts Gators to NCAA Golf Regional win

UF sophomore Andy Zhang claimed the Gators' second consecutive individual golf title and 22nd in program history during the SEC Championship at Sea Island Golf Club on St. Simons Island, Ga., last Friday. (Steven Colquitt/UAA)

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KISSIMMEE — The Florida men’s golf team won the NCAA Kissimmee Regional at the Watson Course at Reunion Resort in record-breaking fashion Wednesday.

After sitting 25-under and five clear of the field entering Wednesday’s final round, Florida was chasing history. The team needed to shoot 12-under-par to tie the record for strokes under par.

The Gators shattered that mark by shooting a final-round 271 (-17), the lowest single round to par in program history. By the end of the tournament, they were 42-under-par to set the program record by five strokes en route to winning the event by 12 strokes.

“We designed everything this year to make sure we were ready for this tournament,” UF coach J.C. Deacon said. “A University of Florida all-time scoring record of 42-under-par, that is pretty special and especially to do it when you need it the most. I’m so proud of these guys and the sacrifices that they have made. We have an exciting opportunity next week when we are playing some of our best golf.”

All five Gator players finished 2-under or better in the tournament, the only school in the 14-team field to accomplish that feat. UF’s Andy Zhang (-13) won medalist honors by one shot over teammate Chris Nido.

“I think we put in a lot of hard work right before and after the SEC Tournament,” Zhang said. “We weren’t happy with the result at SEC’s. So, all this hard work is paying off all together. The ability to be laid back as well as staying focused with the coaches. Everything clicked today and all week for us.”

With their third win of the season under their belt, the Gators advance to the 54th NCAA Championships in program history. It will be the third time in four seasons the team has made it under Deacon.

“It’s the best time of the year,” Deacon said. “When April hits and you have SECs and Nationals, there is so much excitement. The stakes are higher and the pressure is big. Our team showed today exactly what they are made out of. We have a week to go before the National Championship and we’re going to use that time to get a little sharper and more prepared. We’ll give it our all in Stillwater.”

Florida and UNF will be among 30 teams in the NCAA Championships on May 25-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.