Florida wins NCAA Championship for first time since 2001
Florida Gators are 2023 NCAA Champions (Florida Athletics)
Florida Gators are 2023 NCAA Champions (Florida Athletics)

It seemed like an appropriate ending to Fred Biondi's week. After securing the NCAA individual championship on Monday at Grayhawk, the senior clinched the winning point for the Gators over Georgia Tech to claim the school's fifth national championship.

It was a wild championship with two huge momentum swings over the course of the day. Florida came out red-hot and grabbed the lead in four of the matches. But the Yellowjackets battled back and looked as if they might do to Florida what Florida did to the Florida State Seminoles in the semi-final and mount a huge comeback.

"This means more than winning the individuals," Biondi said following the win. "We're bringing this home not just for us, but for all of Gator Nation."

As Fred Biondi closed out his match for the 3-1 team victory, Ricky Castillo stood in the 18th fairway with a 1-up lead. As it set in that the Gators had reached the summit, he embraced coach J.C. Deacon. The talented senior-laden roster just needed time.

"We've always had the talent," coach JC Deacon said. "These guys just had to grow up. They made the ultimate sacrifice to work harder than any team in the country."

After Yuxin Lin defeated Georgia Tech's Christo Lamprecht 4&3, the waiting began as the next three matches were pushed to the 18th hole or beyond. Bartley Forrester and Matthew Kress played the most dramatic match of the day. On the 16th hole, Bartley hit his tee shot to the par-3 a little low on the club face. His reaction wouldn't make you think he'd have a tap in for birdie. The ball, which seemed destined for the desert over the green, slammed into the flagstick and gave Forrester a 2-up lead with two to go.

However, Forrester three-putted the 17th to lose that hole, and then red-shirt freshman Matthew Kress struck a shot deserving of a national champion, hitting his approach on 18 to a foot. Forrester ended up winning on the 20th hole, but it's easy to wonder what could have been if Forrester could have banked that point earlier and sent some good vibes to his teammates.

The seventeenth hole, a driveable par 4, played a pivotal role in the match. Fred Biodi broke his tie with a solid up and down for birdie. Ricky Castillo and Kress also won the 17th hole in their matches, too.

The late-round dramatics were characteristic of the Gators this season. They peaked at the right time during the season, beating Vanderbilt in the SEC Championship. J.C. Deacon's team was experienced and knew how to fight.

“We were dead yesterday, and these guys just don’t quit; they’re tough son-of-a-guns," Deacon said. "Man, I’m so proud to be their coach.”

Along with the player's experience, Dudley Hart, the assistant coach for Florida, provided a huge boost to the Gators with his 30 years of PGA Tour experience. He joined Deacon three years ago and his son was the sub for the week. Hart was a steady presence, especially for Biondi, as he helped him close out his individual title on Monday and was there in the 18th fairway on Wednesday as Biondi measured out his approach knowing par was likely enough to take home the title.

On the Georgia Tech side of things, the Yellowjackets have had some heartbreaks in search of their first national championship. They have recorded five runner-up finishes, and this is the first in the match play era. Bartley Forrester did all he could do to guide the Yellowjackets to a championship finishing 3-0 in his matches

J.C. Deacon understands the history his team is a part of.

“When I got this job it was a huge responsibility to all of our great alumni, so many people Buddy Alexander who poured so much into making this place great and that was a big responsibly for me," he said. Now, he and his team will bring a fifth title back to Gainesville. Championship Match Results
Yuxin Lin (UF) d. Christo Lamprecht 4&3
Bartley Forrester (GT) d. Matthew Kress (UF) vs. 20 holes
John DuBois (UF) d. Connor Howe 1-up
Fred Biondi (UF) d. Hiroshi Tai 1-up
Ricky Castillo (UF) vs. Ross Steelman 1-up through 17

Results: NCAA Division I Championship
1BrazilFred BiondiBrazil150069-68-69-67=273
T2GAJackson BuchananDacula, GA120071-68-68-67=274
T2MORoss SteelmanColumbia, MO120064-69-68-73=274
T4EnglandBarclay BrownEngland90068-71-67-69=275
T4CADylan MenanteCarlsbad, CA90068-70-67-70=275

View full results for NCAA Division I Championship

ABOUT THE NCAA Division I Championship

30 teams and 6 individuals not on a qualifying team make up the field for the championship of NCAA Division I women's golf.

After 72 holes of stroke play, the individual champion is crowned, and the low 8 teams advance to match play to determine the team champion.

View Complete Tournament Information

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