Fred Biondi stars again in leading Florida to dramatic NCAA Championship victory over Georgia Tech
It was not a photo finish, though it came as close as possible to one, drama to the end, when the best player on the best team, Florida’s Fred Biondi, stepped up on the 18th hole and delivered the point that gave the Gators a 3-1 victory over Georgia Tech and the NCAA team championship late on Wednesday.
Biondi, with a two-putt par on the 18th green at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., defeated Hiroshi Tai to give Florida its fifth national championship, but first in the match-play era. Biondi, who won the NCAA individual championship on Monday, became the first to win both titles since Aaron Wise of Oregon in 2016.
“It means more than to me than the individual,” Biondi, a native Brazilian, said. “We were bringing it home for the whole Gator nation. It’s so special. I promised when I first got to school I’d work as hard as I could. It’s not just me. It’s everybody. Everyone back home supporting us, it’s so special. It’s everybody and the staff."
Florida’s Yuxin Lin put the Gators up with a 4-and-3 victory over Christo Lambrecht in the lead-off match. Late in the proceedings, Florida still had only a single point and the other four matches were tied. Georgia Tech’s Bartley Forrester defeated Matthew Kress on the 20th hole to even the score, though the odds had swung heavily to Florida.
John DuBois of the Gators followed with a 1-up victory over Connor Howe and Biondi finally closed it out at the 18th hole. Florida’s Ricky Castillo was 1 up on Ross Steelman on the 18th hole, but did not have to complete his match.
For Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler, it was yet another strong season that ended in disappointment. This was the 20th Yellow Jackets team he took to the NCAA Championship, yet he is still seeking his first national title as is Georga Tech.
“We just came up short again,” Heppler said. “The commitment was as good as we’ve ever had. We’ll just keep coming back again.”
It was Florida’s fifth national championship, but first in the match-play era and the first NCAA title for coach J.C. Deacon.
“We always had the talent, but these guys just had to grow up and they committed to doing it the last three years,” Deacon said. “And they made the ultimate sacrifice to work harder than any team in the country and growing up.
“We were dead yesterday [the Gators trailed Florida State in the semifinals only to rally and advance to the championship round]. But these guys don’t quit. They are tough son of a guns. I’m proud to be their coach. Holy smokes.”