University of Florida men’s golf coach Buddy Alexander is sitting in the proverbial catbird seat as far as the world of collegiate coaching goes. He knows his team hasn’t been firing on all cylinders, but his discomfort is offset by the fact that the rest of the Division I programs haven’t caught on yet. In spite of some minimal wailing and gnashing of teeth (by the way, this is normal for any coach, on any level and any sport while in season) the Gators have been ranked, depending on what poll you read, anywhere from fourth to eighth in the country. “We finished eighth in the tournament in Las Vegas (the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters),” Alexander said, “and that was the toughest field we’ve been in all year. We’ve had some solid performances as a team, but we haven’t had a lot of real good individual performances. “It seems like we’re spinning our wheels. We’re just hoping it’s all there at the end.” In their last outing, the Gators finished fourth in the Chris Schenkel Invitational, played in Statesboro, Ga. While certainly not pushing the panic button, Alexander realizes that his squad has but one tune-up before the Southeastern ConferenceChampionship and that will be the Gary Koch Invitational played at Old Memorial in Tampa in early April. “I think I’ve got to get some of the guys to relax a bit,” said Alexander. “I think T.J. Vogel has a lot on his mind because he’s going to play in The Masters this year as a reward for winning the U.S. Public Links Championship last year. Who can blame him? It will be a great experience for him. “Tyler McCumber hasn’t played as well as he can, but he’s maintained a great attitude. I expect him to bust loose real soon. I’m real proud of the work ethic these guys have shown. I just hope that these guys don’t put too much pressure on themselves.” Alexander received a belated Christmas present when the Spring season started and sophomore lefthander Eric Banks from Truro, Canada, returned from open-heart surgery performed last June. “Eric has played some solid golf for us,” he said. “He’s been through a lot, but he’s really come back to play some good golf for us. He’s starting to show us what we can do.” There have been other indications that the Gators may be on the verge of doing well, not only in the SEC Championship, but even beyond into the NCAA Championship as well. “I think that (freshman) A.J. Crouch has come on to be a solid No. 5 player for us,” Alexander said. “We have some depth. Now, we just have to relax and play up to our capabilities.”
The Florida Junior Tour had its best field of the young year at Rio Pinar Country Club in Orlando and the quality of the field produced close races in both the Boys and Girls 16 to 18 age divisions. After the first round in the Boys Division there was a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard: Tallahassee’s Matt Young, Orlando’s Luis Gagne and Naples’ Jackson Stroup all were at 2-under-par 70. Gagne broke out of the gate quickly in the second round, Making the turn at 4 under for the day. Although he staggered a bit on the inward half with a 3-over 39, his round of 71 gave him a 141 total, good for a one-stroke advantage on Stroup and his first FJT victory. Lake Mary’s Robin Wang finished third, another stroke back. On the girls side of the ledger, Orlando’s Yueer Feng won her second FJT title in a row. An opening round 2-under 70 left her tied for the lead with Tampa’s Amy Newell. The outcome remained in doubt until Feng made birdies on three of her final five holes for a 143 total. She bested both Newell and Emmy Martin, also of Tampa, by two strokes.
The NCAA isn’t the only organization that partakes in bracketology. The FSGA has its own version with its Interclub Matches. Heading into the past weekend seven of the Elite 8 had been identified. Titusville’s La Cita Golf & Country Club will represent the Central quadrant, with Queen’s Harbour Yacht and Country Club of Jacksonville emerging from the Northeast. Gainesville Country Club got through the West, and Gulf Breeze’s Tiger Point Golf Club will represent the Panhandle. The winner from the Southeast quadrant will emerge from a match between Vero Beach’s Sandridge Golf Club and The Evergreen Club of Palm City. Quail Creek Country Club is coming in from Naples, while The Eagles Golf Club in Odessa will represent the Tampa Bay area. Rounding out the field will be the team from Fort Myers’ Fiddlesticks Country Club that prevailed in the Suncoast quadrant.