Redshirt-senior Andres Echavarria (Medellin, Colombia) earned a medalist honor and led the Florida men’s golf team to its 15th SEC Championship and first since 2003 on Sunday at the Sea Island Golf Club. The men’s golf championship gave the University of Florida its 200th SEC Championship.
Florida has won SEC titles in volleyball, soccer, women’s cross country, men’s basketball, men’s indoor track and field, women’s tennis and men’s golf, in addition to winning the ALC title in lacrosse.
As a team, the Gators led after every round, but the result was not decided until the last hole. The teams fought through windy conditions, rain and heat as several teams made a run for the title, but Florida held on and sealed the victory when Echavarria made a birdie and sophomore Phillip Choi (Orlando, Fla.) and senior Bank Vongvanij (Bradenton, Fla.) made even par on hole 18.
They improved their score each day, going from a 285 on the first day, to 282 and 281 for the third round for a total score of 848 and three individual finishes in the top five.
“I felt like we had the best team,” said head coach Buddy Alexander. “I felt pretty comfortable coming in here even though our last tournament wasn’t so great. I was a little nervous in that we kind of blew a six-shot lead at the Schenkel (Invitational) about a month ago and we hadn’t won in a while. We just felt like it was our turn to win, if we played like we played all year.”
Echavarria’s medalist honor marked his third-career win and second this year after winning the Gator Invitational in a playoff on Feb. 13. He played solidly all three rounds, shooting even par for both the first and second rounds. He started the third round off well, shooting even par until making consecutive birdies on the eighth and ninth holes. He continued shooting even par until hole 13, where he made a double bogey to put him one stroke behind leader John Peterson (LSU). On the 18th hole, Echavarria made a birdie to tie with Peterson and force a playoff.
The playoff did not last long, as Peterson missed a putt for bogey as Echavarria shot even par to mark the sixth time in 10 tournaments a Florida individual has won.
“He’s our senior captain and he’s a fifth-year guy, so he’s got a lot of experience and he’s been playing really well lately,” said Alexander. “He was actually sick last week, so I was a little nervous about that, but he’s a great competitor, he wants to win as much as everybody.”
Choi made one birdie and one bogey on the day to shoot even par and finish in a tie for third, marking his ninth-consecutive top-10 finish.
Vongvanij made four birdies and three bogeys to shoot a 69 and finish in fifth place. He has now finished in the top five in seven out of Florida’s 10 tournaments.
Sophomore Tommy Mou (Bradenton, Fla.) shot a 73 and finished in a tie for 21st, while sophomore Tyler McCumber (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.) shot a 75 on the day.
The Gators have a break to prepare for their next postseason action, the NCAA regional tournament in Ocala, Fla. on May 19-21.