Florida's men's golf season ends in the fourth round of the NCAA Championship

Texas, the host of the 2023-24 NCAA Championships, chose to hold the event on a course that no team in the country had seen this season: the North Course at the Omni La Costa Resort. It presented a challenge for all golfers. The course was unfamiliar and featured grasses that Florida had not often seen in college competition.

Florida made it to the fourth and final round of stroke play, but failed to make the top eight and thus did not secure a place in the match play final.

UF, like many other teams in the field, struggled with the new course early in the first round, making eight team bogeys on the first four holes. The Gators began to get into their stride, however, with four golfers making par on the fifth hole.

John DuBois, a fifth-grader competing in the national championships for the fourth time, found his rhythm in the first round with a birdie on the 6th hole. Parker Bell, a sophomore, followed up with another birdie on the 6th hole to improve Florida's score to 4 over par.

“[Bell’s] “He’s always been a bomber off the tee and he’s always been very talented,” said junior Ian Gilligan.

Gilligan provided momentum for Florida on the back nine holes by making three consecutive birdies on holes seven, eight and nine.

Freshman Jack Turner and DuBois built on Gilligan's success with a fiery start on the back nine. Turner made a birdie on the 10th hole and a par-4 eagle on the 11th, while DuBois made two consecutive birdies on the same holes. Florida improved his score to 2 over par and moved into the top five.

UF aimed for a low score in the first round and rose to T1 on the leaderboard after sophomore Matthew Kress' fifth team birdie on holes 10 and 11.

The Gators' winning streak ended when Gilligan made three bogeys in a row. Kress, who finished the day at 9-over 81, made five bogeys in a row, including a quadruple bogey on holes 11 through 15.

Bell added two more bogeys on holes 15 and 16, but Florida finished the first round in eighth place at 7-over 295, three strokes ahead of the qualifying cutoff, despite a tough finish to the back nine holes.

DuBois took the lead for Florida in the first round with a bogey-free 3-under 69 finish, good enough for T3 on the individual leaderboard.

Florida began the second round with holes 10 through 18 and ended the day with holes one through nine. The unfamiliar course caused problems for the team and by the end of the round the teams had dropped four places in the rankings.

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Turner, Kress and Bell made bogeys on the first two holes. Gilligan made a birdie on the 10th hole, but Florida fell to 13th place after DuBois made his first bogey of the national championship on the 13th hole.

“Over the last three or four weeks, we have focused heavily on our [younger players],” said Florida head coach JC Deacon. “They carried us, and that’s not normal.”

The Gators fell out of the top 15 for the first time during stroke play when Gilligan made double bogeys on the 12th hole and DuBois made double bogeys on the 14th. Gilligan struggled to flip the switch and made double bogeys on the 13th hole, dropping Florida to T19.

UF dropped to 23rd place after Kress made a double bogey on hole 18. Florida came in 17 strokes over par and recorded 14 team bogeys and four double bogeys on holes 10 through 18.

Florida responded with six birdies on holes one through four. Gilligan made three birdies in a row on holes two through four, reducing Florida's score to 14 over par and moving it back into the top 20.

But similar to the first round, Florida was unable to finish well. They conceded six bogeys on the last three holes and three bogeys on the seemingly difficult seventh hole.

Florida finished the second round at 14 over 302.

After two rounds, DuBois was 3 over par and in the top 20 of the individual rankings.

The other participating teams finished their second round after Florida and many also struggled to make up ground; not a single team in the 30-strong field finished the second round under par.

UF was able to stay afloat long enough to reach 12th place in the rankings, three strokes ahead of the qualifying cutoff.

Florida needed to secure its spot in the top 15 to have a chance to advance to another round of stroke play. The Gators could not afford another slow start in round three if they wanted to keep their hopes of a second consecutive national championship alive.

“This team doesn’t seem to be giving up, and I’ve never seen that from a team this young,” Deacon said.

Kress made three birdies in a row on holes two through four to turn heads at UF. Gilligan followed with three birdies on his first four holes and Florida began the round at 5 under par. The Gators improved their total to 14 over par and moved into ninth place after Bell and Turner also made birdies.

Florida's success continued through the first nine holes of the third round, as DuBois remained bogey-free and made birdies on holes six and eight.

The Gators got back into the top six when Turner made birdies on holes two and four. The team made 12 birdies over the first nine holes compared to just six bogeys and was 12 shots ahead of the cut-off at the turn.

While the Gators had their strongest first nine holes of the tournament, they were unable to maintain their momentum in the back half.

Hole 10 was a success for Florida as three golfers made birdies. However, UF's troubles began when Bell, Kress and Turner made bogeys on hole 12. DuBois made bogeys on holes 13 through 15 and Bell's double bogey on hole 14 dropped the Gators to 10th place on the leaderboard at 20 strokes over par.

DuBois recorded his fourth consecutive bogey on the 16th hole, reducing Florida's lead over his opponent in 15th place to five strokes.

The Gators were successful on the final two holes to secure a spot in the fourth and final round of stroke play, with four Gators shooting par or better. DuBois and Gilligan made a birdie on the 18th hole, increasing Florida's lead over the cut-off to seven strokes and cementing Florida's eighth place finish at 20 over par at 884 strokes.

Gilligan and Kress led UF to a 1-under-par 287-stroke round, with both golfers shooting 1-under-par 71-strokes.

Florida competed in the final round of stroke play against the top 15 teams from the previous rounds of competition, starting on holes 10 through 18. To advance to the match play rounds, the team had to finish among the top eight teams.

Florida started strong with five pars on hole 10, but the team fell out of the top eight when Bell and Kress made a double bogey on hole 11.

Kress and Bell combined for three more bogeys through the 13th and 14th holes. The Gators remained outside the top eight but were just one stroke behind the cut-off to survive and advance to the fourth round.

The Gators got back into the top eight after Turner and DuBois birdied holes 13 and 15. Florida managed three more birdies on the final two holes, but that wasn't enough to get back into the top eight.

Gilligan and Bell made a double bogey on the 18th hole, leaving UF at 26 over par and T9 on the turn.

Florida played with intensity on holes four through six. Kress made a birdie on hole six to move Florida closer to qualifying. Bell and DuBois then made two consecutive birdies on holes five and six to push the Gators back to eighth place at 26 over par.

However, UF's hopes of advancing began to fade after they suffered eight team bogeys and just one birdie over the final three holes. The Gators quickly fell from eighth place and were four shots behind the qualifying cutoff after a difficult three-hole stretch on holes seven through nine.

UF finished the tournament at 29-over 1,181, finishing three spots behind the cut in 11th place.

“When I think about this group, I can't feel anything but pride,” Deacon said. “We just couldn't finish it off and I know just how hungry that will make this exciting young team.”

Contact Aiden Wacksman at awacksman@alligator.orgFollow him on Twitter at @aidenwacksman

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