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Gators’ Coach Alexander Has Deep Roster

To the surprise of very few, the University of Florida debuted as the highest-ranked state collegiate golf squad in the NCAA Men’s Div. 1 poll, entering the season at No. 12. Now it’s time to find out if they are that good, better, or not as good. Even coach Buddy Alexander isn’t really sure.
“I’d like to think we’re at least that good,” he said, “But you never know for sure. I’ve read where we have the toughest schedule in the country. We have one tournament under our belts (The Invitational at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course), but the level of competition will be moving up.”
It would have been understandable if Alexander had allowed himself to be a little giddy after the season debut.
People termed Rory McIlroy’s victory on the same course in the PGA Championship dominant, but he had nothing on the Gators’ cumulative effort. They punished the field, finishing 24 strokes ahead of runner-up Texas-Arlington, placing four players in the top five.
Seniors Tyler McCumber, from Ponte Vedra, and T.J. Vogel, from Cooper City, tied for second place while freshman A.J. Crouch, from Jacksonville, and redshirt sophomore Santiago Gavino, from San Luis Polosi, Mexico, tied for fourth.
For good measure, redshirt sophomore Alex Slaton, from Gainesville, finished tied for eighth place. When you put numbers like these together, it adds up to a tournament win.
“This was Santiago Gavino’s first college tournament,” Alexander said, “and his performance was a real pleasant surprise. As good a performance that we had at Kiawah, it would be totally unrealistic to expect that that would be the norm, but I did like the quality of our play on a really difficult course in windy conditions.”
Alexander has a deep talent pool with which to work. In addition to McCumber and Vogel, he has senior standout Tommy Mou, from Bradenton.
Then comes the barrage of underclassmen led by junior Bill Anderson, from DeLand, and a quintet of sophomores: Eric Banks, from Truro, Canada; Gavino; James Monnerville, from Vero Beach; Slaton Thomas Stewart, from Ponte Vedra Beach; and J.D. Tomlinson, from Gainesville. On the horizon are freshmen Crouch, who gave a glimpse of his potential at Kiawah and Conor Richardson, from West Palm Beach.
“I’m really excited about this team,” Alexander added. “This has a chance to be a special team.”
The fall season should be a reliable indicator as to the level the Gators can attain, and in the spring, they’ll get Banks back in the lineup.
“He had open-heart surgery on June 25,” said Alexander, “and right now, he’s just hitting wedges. He should be hitting full shots again in a month. We might be able to get him back for a tournament by the end of the fall schedule.”
Alexander feels that he’ll have a better grasp on this year’s squad after the Olympia Fields/Illini Invitational that starts Sept. 30 at the Chicago-area course.
“If we can finish in the top four, that will be a tremendous stride forward,” Alexander said. “The biggest thing is we have three new players and we’ll be looking for two of them to step up. And we hope that our experienced players can get a little better and that’s tough because at that level, there isn’t as much room for improvement. We really hope they don’t take a step back.
“That’s the interesting thing about college golf. You never know for sure which way things are going to go. We’re just going to have to find out and. like I said, we’ll have a better idea after Olympia Fields.”
Because the PGA Tour is abandoning Q-School as an entry to the Tour and relegating qualifiers to the Web.com Tour, there will be a trickle-down effect on the collegiate scene. Successful collegians may not be as anxious to leave campus to head to the minors.
“We really don’t know what the effect will be yet,” Alexander said. “None of my guys left and there have only been a few high-profile players who have left elsewhere. In a way, I’m kind of sad that guys won’t have a chance to go right out on Tour.
“The collegiate players who have qualified have done well like Bud Cauley and Rickie Fowler. That won’t be happening again, but I certainly appreciate the merits of earning your way over a complete season as well.”
Rather than dwell on what might be, Alexander seems quite content to be focused on his team in the here and now. And it’s a full plate.


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