Title Hungry Bulls Begin Spring at Gator Invite
EVENT: SunTrust Gator Invitational
DATES: Saturday, Feb. 18-Sunday, Feb. 19
LOCATION: Mark Bostick Golf Course, Gainesville
COURSE SETUP: Par 70, 6,701 yards
TWITTER UPDATES: @USFMGolf
LIVE SCORING: Golfstat.com
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA, FEB. 17, 2017 – USF’s men’s golf has a mission of making it back to the NCAA Championship for a third consecutive season and the path to the postseason begins this weekend.
Head coach Steve Bradley’s Bulls will shoot for a three-peat at the SunTrust Gator Invitational, which begins Saturday with 36 holes at Mark Bostick Golf Course (par 70, 6,701 yards).
USF was the lone under-par team at the event in its eight-shot victory in 2015. Last spring, the Bulls (-22) broke the program’s 54-hole scoring record and defended their title with an eight-shot win over Vanderbilt.
To accomplish the three-peat this spring, new-look USF will have to get past a talented field that’s headlined by Florida. Ranked second nationally, the Gators started their spring with a nine-shot victory at the Sea Best Invitational on Feb. 7.
“Florida clearly has one of the better teams in the country this year and I know they haven’t been a big fan of us, or anybody, going in and winning their golf tournament,” head coach Steve Bradley said. “They’re probably extra motivated.”
No extra motivation is needed for a USF squad that’s hungry for its first tournament title of the season. USF posted a top-10 finish in each of its five fall events and the Bulls made the most of a busy offseason. Every member of the team played at least one individual tournament during the break.
“The guys have some confidence and golf is as much mental as it is physical,” Bradley said. “I just think they’re in a better place mentally and it’s perpetuated some better scores.”
Junior Jimmy Jones (Tampa) will play at the top of USF’s first lineup of the spring after leading the team with a 72.4 scoring average in the fall. The transfer from Florida Southern College shot par or better in 10 of 14 rounds with a pair of top-five finishes. Jones placed fourth at the First Coast Amateur in January.
Junior Claudio Correa (Chile) will tee off from the No. 2 position in the lineup after posting a 72.7 scoring average in the fall. Correa captured the individual title at the Gator Invitational in 2015 by shooting 5-under (65-73-67).
Playing in the third spot will be senior Rigel Fernandes, who set a number of school scoring records during his Gator Invitational victory last season (-13, 70-63-64). Fernandes (Bradenton, Fla.) finished the fall with a 73.2 scoring average through 11 rounds.
Junior Priyanshu Singh (Delhi, India) earned the fourth spot in the lineup in qualifying after a highly productive offseason. The Nova Southeastern transfer placed fourth at the Georgia Southern Individual Collegiate and tied for 18th at the South Beach International Amateur, a top-10 amateur event in the world.
Freshman Kyle Flexsenhar (Lake Mary, Fla.) will look to stay on a roll from the fifth position in the lineup. Flexsenhar, who played 12 rounds in the fall, tied for third at the Dixie Amateur in December and placed ninth at the First Coast Amateur.
Junior Cristian DiMarco (Longwood, Fla.) will play as an individual after finishing the fall with a 72.7 scoring average and carding seven rounds of par or better.
“From the fall to the beginning of the spring, I’ve seen a significant uptick in our play. The guys are playing better,” Bradley said.
No. 2 Florida, No. 29 Arkansas, No. 30 Florida State, UCF, Missouri, Wake Forest, College of Charleston, Georgia Southern, Jacksonville, Liberty, North Texas, Troy, UAB and North Florida.
USF men’s golf returns four of seven players from the 2015-16 team that made program history with a return trip to the NCAA Championship. The Bulls have won the past two American Athletic Conference Championships in head coach Steve Bradley’s first two seasons with the program. Follow @USFMGolf on Twitter for the latest information concerning the program.