GAINSVILLE, Fla. -- The No. 5 University of Florida men's golf team finished second in its home event Sunday in the 2003 SunTrust Gator Invitational at the University Golf Course. The Gators finished with an 872 (+32) three-round total, just three strokes behind tournament champion, No. 2 Augusta State at +29 (869).
The finish marked the 15th straight year and 20 out of the last 21 years that UF has finished in the top two of the standings of its tournament. Florida finished in a tie for second place last season. The second place finish this season also marked the first time since the 1981-82 seasons that UF failed to win the tournament title in back-to-back years.
'My kids battled hard today,' Gator Head Coach Buddy Alexander said. 'The weather and a six-shot deficit were looking them right in the face, but they battled and I'm happy about that. There are some positives that we can take out of this and our lineup is starting to take shape.'
Florida's highest finisher was senior Ari Savolainen (Helsinki, Finland), who competed as an individual. Savolainen recorded the highest finish of his Florida career, as he took third with a three-over-par 213. The highest finish for Savolainen prior to this season was a tie for fifth place at the 2002 Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational. Savolainen fired a one-over 71 in the final day after shooting a +2 (72) in the first round and an even-par (70) in the second 18 holes Saturday afternoon.
The highest Gator finisher that did count towards UF's score was freshman James Vargas (Miami, Fla.), who finished fourth for the second straight stroke-play tournament with a +5 (215). Vargas also finished fourth at the Gary Koch Invitational in October, as he carded a five-under par 139 in the weather-shortened two round tournament. Vargas shot his second round of +2 (72) in the tournament's final day.
Fellow freshman Brett Stegmaier (Madison, Conn.) was Florida's other top-10 finisher, as he finished tied for ninth at 218 (+8). Stegmaier, who recorded his second top-10 finish of the season, fired a seven-over 77 during the last 18 holes. Senior Jordan Code (Tampa, Fla.) finished tied for 12th with a total of 219 (+9).
Junior Camilo Villegas (Medellin, Colombia) made a jump of 22 places from the first to the second day of the tournament, as he finished tied for 17th with a +11 (221). Villegas shot a one-over 71 on Sunday, after finishing tied for 39th after the first 36 holes. Senior Dalton Melnyk (Jacksonville, Fla.) finished in a tie for 46th with a +18 228 in the last home tournament of his career.
Big Ten school Purdue finished third, 10 strokes back of the Gators with an 882 (+42). College of Charleston finished in fourth at +45 (885), while Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern finished in a tie for fifth at +50 (890). LSU, last year's team champion, finished 12th with a +62 (902).