Medalist Biondi Wins Clinching Point as Florida Claims NCAA Title
May 31, 2023 | 7 min.
By Michael R Fermoyle
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Fred Biondi was not what you would have called a prize recruit when he arrived on the University of Florida campus in the fall of 2019. But he promised the Gators' head golf coach, J.C. Deacon, that he would "work as hard as I could and try to bring him a ring or two."
It wasn't until his junior year that Biondi became a regular in the Florida lineup. But he was in the lineup again this season as a senior, and on Wednesday he fulfilled his pledge to Deacon as he secured the winning point in the 2023 NCAA Division I title match with a 1-up victory over Georgia Tech's Hiroshi Tai. The official score was Florida 3, Georgia Tech 1. Ricky Castillo, who had been the hero of a come-from-behind 3-2 triumph over Florida State in the semifinals, might have been the hero again, had it not been for Biondi.
Castillo had come from behind to beat Flordia State's Brett Roberts in 21 holes Tuesday afternoon, and thus claimed the winning point in that match. On Wednesday, he trailed after 15 holes but won the 16th and 17th and was 1 up -- and in the fairway on 18. But that was when Biondi, who had gone 1 up over Tai with a birdie at the 17th, lagged a 25-foot birdie putt to within concession range at the 18th.
The win against Tai concluded an almost perfect NCAA tournament for Biondi, who had come from five behind in the fourth round to claim medalist honors in the stroke-play portion of the championships. There was, however, one non-highlight during the week. He lost 6&5 to Bryan Lee in the second-seeded Gators' 3-2 victory over seventh-seeded Virginia on Tuesday morning in the quarterfinals. But Biondi got on track again with a 1-up win over Florida State's Cole Anderson a few hours later in the semis.
This was Florida's fifth NCAA golf championship, but the first since 2001.
The darkest hour for the Gators came in the semis against Florida State. Florida trailed 2-0 and was down in other matches, before Biondi squeaked out his point against Anderson, and John DuBois also won 1 up, over Luke Clanton -- and Castillo flipped his match against Roberts and won on the third extra hole.
On Wednesday, Yuxin Lin gave Florida a quick point, winning 4&3 over Tech's Christoi Lamprecht. But Georgia Tech led early in three of the other four matches.The Gators' Matthew Kress came back to tie his match against Bartley Forrester, but ended up losing on the 20th hole. DuBois was 1 down after 14 holes, but pulled even by winniing the 15th and won the 520-yard, par-4 18th to claim a 1-up victory and give Florida its second point, thereby setting the stage for Biondi.
It was Georgia Tech that had eliminated Pepperdine, 3-2 in the quarterfinals. The Waves took an early lead, thanks to Sam Choi, who beat Connor Howe 2&1. Derek Hitchner, a Pepperdine grad student -- and the 2021 Minnesota State Amateur champion -- lost the first hole to Lamprecht's birdie, but then birdied the next three holes himself and went on to win 4&3, which made it 2-0 for Pepperdine. But Tech got the last three points, including a 19-hole victory by Tai over Roberto Nieves.
Nevertheless, it was a good week for Hitchner, as he capped off his college career. The former state Class AA high school champ from Blake tied for 11th individually in the stroke-play portion of the tournament, and moved up from No. 17 to No. 14 in the PGA Tour University Rankiings. As a result, he will be fully exempt for the PGA Tour Canada when he turns pro, as he is expecdted to do in the very near future.
NCAA Division I Men's Championships
At Grayhawk Golf Club
Par 70, 7,289 yards
(1) North Carolina 3, (8) Arizona State 1
(5) Georgia Tech 3, (4) Pepperdine 2
S. Choi (P) def. C. Howe 2&1
Derek Hitchner (P) def. C. Lamprecht 4&3
B. Forrester (GT) def. L. Gifford 2&1
H. Tai, (GT) def. R. Nieves 19 holes
R. Steelman (GT) def. W. Mouw 5&4
(2) Florida 3, (7) Virginia 2
(6) Florida State 3, (3) Illinois 2
Florida 3, Florida State 2
Georgia Tech 3, North Carolina 2
Florida 3, Georgia Tech 1
Y. Lin, Fla, def. C. Lamprecht 4&3
B. Forrester, GT, def. M. Kress 20 holes
J. DuBois, Fla., def. C. Howe 1 up
Fred Biondi, Fla., def. H. Tai 1 up
R. Castillo, Fla., led R. Steelman 1 up through 17
Final results -- Stroke Play
1. North Carolina 282-284-275-273--1114
T2. Florida 283-278-278-279--1118
T2. Illinois 285-273-276-284--1118
4. Pepperdine 281-287-269-283--1123
T5. Georgia Tech 280-286-276-284--1126
T5. Florida State 284-287-282-273--1126
7. Virginia 290-281-283-277--1131
8. Arizona State 291-281-279--281--1132 (won two-hole playoff to claim the last spot for match play)
Did not qualify for match play
9. Stanford 290-286-274-282--1132
10. Auburn 288-286-282-282--1138
T11. Vanderbilt 282-288-283--853
T11. Alabama 290-282-289-280--1141
13. Texas A&M 289-285-283-287--1144
14. Georgia 285-291-288-285--1149
15. Ohio State 287-295-284-294--1160
Did not make cut
T25. New Mexico 293-296-291--880
1. Fred Biondi, Florida 69-68-69-67--273 (minus 7)
T2. Ross Steelman, Georgia Tech 64-69-68-73--274
T2. Jackson Buchanan, Illinois 71-68-68-67--274
T4. Dylan Menante, North Carolina 68-70-67-70--275
T4. Barclay Brown, Stanford. 68-71-67-69--275
6. Ben James, Virginia 71-68-69-68--276
T7. Tommy Kuhl, Illinois 72-69-67-71--279
T7. A. Dumont de Chassar, Illiinois 68-68-70-73--279
T7. Brett Roberts, Florida State 69-73-70-67--279
T7. Sam Choi, Pepperdine 70-72-67-70--279
T11. Derek Hitchner, Pepperdine 73-73-65-69--280
T11. Nick Dunlap, Alabama 74-68-66-72--280
T11. Luke Gofford, Pepperdine. 70-71-67-72--280
T11. Phichaksn Maichon, Texas A&M. 72-72-68-68--280
T11. Austin Greaser, North Carolina. 71-74-69-66--280
T11. Ricky Castillo, Florida 71-68-70-71--280
T11. Matthew Anderson, San Francisco 68-71-70-71--280
T29. Ludvig Aberg, Texas Tech 69-73-69-73--284 (No. 1 in PGA Tour University Rankings)
T40. Gordon Sargent, Vanderbilt 71-73-73-69--286 (defending champion)
T74. Sam Bennett, Texas A&M 75-74-71-75--295 (2022 U.S. Amateur, low amateur in 2023 Masters)
T111. Carson Herron, New Mexico 77-74-72--223