Sophomore Billy Horschel (Grant, Fla.) captured his first individual medal of the season with a career-low 63 (-7) in the final round of the PING/Golfweek Preview Invitational on Wednesday to lead the fifth-ranked University of Florida mens golf team to its first victory of the year. The Gators posted a team score of 272 (-8) ' which ties for the 13th-lowest round in school history by score ' to finish with a team score of 834 (-6) and outlast defending national champion Oklahoma State by four strokes. The victory is the Gators first Preview title in 14 appearances at the prestigious event.
Ill be the first to admit that I didnt think we would win a golf tournament this early in the year, Florida head coach Buddy Alexander said. I was confident wed get better as the year went on, but I wasnt sure if wed be where we are now so early. The guys played great today, and it was a real treat to watch them. It was the first time in the final group with a legitimate chance to win for some of our players, but they showed what our team is made of today.
Horschel played a flawless round of golf on Wednesday, rolling in seven birdies, to take home his second career individual medal. He got off to a fast start with four birdies on the front nine and then continued his solid play with three more birdies on the back, including a clutch three on the par-four 17th with the Gators clinging to a three-stroke lead. His final-round 63 ranks as the second-lowest sophomore score in school history, behind only Camilo Villegas 62 in the second round of the 2001 Gary Koch Invitational, and his total of 203 ties his career low. With the win, Horschel increased his streak of consecutive top-10 finishes to seven tournaments, dating back to the 2005-06 season. Coupled with his victory at the 2006 NCAA West Regional, Horschel has now won two of his last five collegiate tournaments, and three of his last six events overall when his medalist performance at the U.S. Amateur is included.
Another key to the Florida win was the play of junior Manuel Villegas (Medellin, Colombia), who carded a final-round 69 (-1) to land in a tie for sixth with a two-under 208 for the tourney. He got off to a bit of a rough start to the day, finding himself one over through three holes, but bounced back with birdies on five, six and eight to make the turn at two under for the day. He countered a double-bogey on 12 and a bogey on 14 with birdies 13 and 18 ' the last of which sealed the victory for the Gators ' to sign his card at 208 for the week. The sixth-place tie marks the second top-10 finish of Villegas season and career.
Sophomore Toby Ragland (Jacksonville, Fla.) saved his best round of the tournament for the final day, firing a one-under 69 to jump a dozen spots and finish in a tie for 31st with a score of 215 (+5). He found himself in a hole early after bogeying the first three holes of the day, but he birdied five of the next 10 holes to get to two under for the day before a bogey on the last gave him his final total.
A pair of freshmen ' Andres Echavarria (Medellin, Colombia) and Tim McKenney (Scottsdale, Ariz.) ' turned in almost identical rounds of one-over golf on Wednesday to finish the tournament in ties for 18th and 34th place, respectively. Both players notched three birdies on the day to combat the four strokes they gave back on various holes. McKenney claimed his first collegiate top-20 finish with a total of 212 (+2), while Echavarria finished with a three-round score of 216 (+6).
Billy just decided that he wanted to win today, and that he wanted us to win today, Alexander said. Its fun to watch him take over like that. On the same token, the other four guys in our lineup were also terrific. Without Billys score, we still shot 280, which isnt good enough to win, but is a heck of a lot to ask from your two-through-five guys. It was great to see them all play like that.
The Gators will take almost three weeks off before their next tournament, the Isleworth Invitational in Orlando, Fla. The event will be hosted by UCF at Isleworth Country Club.