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Gator Invitational: Host Florida takes win

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 15, 200 -- Senior Toby Ragland (Jacksonville, Fla.) sank a birdie putt on the seventh playoff hole to beat teammate Billy Horschel (Grant, Fla.) for the individual medal as the University of Florida men’s golf team won the 2009 SunTrust Gator Invitational by 18 strokes for their sixth-straight win at their home tournament. The Gators shot a final-round 279 (-1) at Mark Bostick Golf Course to finish at 16-under par 824 for the tournament.

“I’m happy for Toby and he certainly deserves it,” said head coach Buddy Alexander. “I’m equally proud of Billy. Both guys are seniors and they’re playing their last waltz here. It was pretty special what went on in that playoff.”

The story of the day was the two UF seniors who battled through seven playoff holes, before Ragland finally took home his first collegiate title with a birdie on the seventh hole. UCF’s Simon Ward joined the two Gators in the three-man playoff after all three finished 54-holes at five-under par 205. All three players made par on the first two playoff holes, but Ward was eliminated after Ragland and Horschel each made a birdie on the third playoff hole.

Ragland hit his approach on the par-five third within five feet of the pin to give him a good chance for birdie. Horschel sank a putt from the fringe for a birdie and Ragland made his putt to force a fourth playoff hole.

Both players made par on the fourth hole and Horschel sank another pressure putt on the fifth hole to stay alive. After making par on the par-three sixth hole, both players set themselves up with a birdie opportunity on the par-five seventh, and Ragland sank his putt from below the hole to put the pressure on Horschel once again. Horschel just missed the cup on his birdie attempt to clinch the win for Ragland.

“I hit my approach a little short of pin high,” said Ragland. “It was a tough putt because I knew it was going to go right, but it doesn’t look like it and I just trusted it.”

The playoff was the longest in Gator Invitational history and Ragland became the 11th Florida player to win the individual medal. It was the 23rd time the Orange and Blue have won the event since it started in 1978.

Although Ragland and Horschel stole the show, the rest of the team also performed well over the weekend. Five Gators finished in the individual top-10. Juniors Tim McKenney (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Tyson Alexander (Gainesville, Fla.) each shot one-under par 69 in the final round to finish in fifth and six, respectively.

Senior Will Strickler (Charlottesville, Va.) shot a 71 (+1) in the final round to complete the team’s third-round 279.

Playing as an individual, freshman Mu Hu (Shen Zhen, China) finished in a tie for ninth at one-under par 209 for the tournament. Redshirt sophomore Andres Echavarria (Medellin, Colombia) shot even-par (210) for the tournament to finish 14th and freshman Max Kieffer (Duesseldorf, Germany) tied for 22nd at three-over par 213. Echavarria and Kieffer played as individuals.

Ragland struggled down the stretch in the final round, carding a 72 (+2), but his performance on the first day was enough to propel him to the win. He shot an opening-round 68 (-2) on Saturday morning, and followed that with a collegiate-best round of 65 (-5) in the afternoon.

Horschel and Ragland enjoyed their best finishes of the season, while the Gators earned their second tournament victory in a row.

“They all played pretty well,” said Coach Alexander. “I’m proud of them and it is a great way to start the spring. They’re starting to believe in themselves and they can play with almost anybody.”

--Courtesy UF Athletic Department

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ABOUT THE SunTrust Gator Invitational

54 hole men's college tournament hosted by the University of Florida.

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