GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The fifth-ranked University of Florida men’s golf team will square off with the remainder of the Southeastern Conference this weekend in Sea Island, Ga., where the SEC will host its annual championship tournament from April 20-22.
“We’ve played in some quality events this season in an effort to get ready for this time of year,” Florida head coach Buddy Alexander said. “We can and will play better than what we’ve shown recently. We’ve got our work cut out for us this weekend, and we’re doing everything possible to be ready to go.”
The Gators will be in search of the program’s 15th SEC title, a figure that would tie for the second-most in league history. Half of the 14 titles UF currently owns have come under Alexander’s direction, with the most recent coming in 2003. Florida has been among the top two squads at the SEC Championship in six of the last eight seasons.
A victory this weekend would also be the school’s seventh league crown of the year. The UF football, men’s basketball, volleyball, women’s soccer, gymnastics and women’s tennis teams have already added to their trophy cases in 2006-07.
Florida will face a challenging field in its bid for an SEC crown, as three of the top five teams in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index will be on hand at the conference championship. Top-ranked Georgia and No. 3 Alabama will join the fifth-ranked Gators at Sea Island, while No. 17 Tennessee gives the conference a quartet of ranked teams.
“We have a terrific conference in terms of team strength and depth,” Alexander said. “Nothing will come easy out here this weekend. Our guys are prepared to battle with every shot. It will come down to who can make the most shots and stay out of trouble.”
The Gators will face their competition with a revamped lineup, due in part to the fact that UF drew a place in the first group of tee times for Friday’s opening round. Sophomore Billy Horschel (Grant, Fla.), who recently ascended to the No. 1 spot in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, will play in the fifth spot, but tee off first. Junior Tyler Brown (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.) will take over the in first position, while freshman Tim McKenney (Scottsdale, Ariz.) will play second. Sophomore Toby Ragland (Jacksonville, Fla.) and freshman Tyson Alexander (Gainesville, Fla.) round out the Florida lineup in the third and fourth spots, respectively.
“This is a very capable team, and they’re anxious to get on the course right now,” Alexander said. “There will be some ups and downs this weekend, but that’s what you get with a young team. We’ll be looking for guys to cover for their teammates when things are going tough, but they key is to be able to count four low numbers each round.”
Florida players have combined to win a conference-best 20 individual medals at the SEC Championship, including three of the last five. Former Gator Brett Stegmaier is the reigning league champion, having carded a five-under 205 to take the crown last year. Team and individual success have also gone hand-in-hand for UF, as the team has won both the team title and the individual medal 11 times in its history.
The 54-hole event will be played on Sea Island’s par-70, 7,005-yard Seaside Course. Scoring will be done live on the Internet at http://www.golfstat.com, and can also be accessed at http://www.gatorzone.com.