SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - A comeback of a lifetime capped by Ricky Castillo's victory in 21 holes lifted the Florida men's golf team to a 3-2 victory over Florida State on Tuesday for a berth in the NCAA Championship Finals.
Florida will face No. 5 seed Georgia Tech for the program's fifth national championship on Wednesday at 4:35 p.m. ET. Live coverage on Golf Channel will start at 5 p.m. ET. The Yellow Jackets reached the finals from the other side of the bracket with victories against North Carolina (semifinals) and Pepperdine (quarterfinals).
The No. 6-seed Seminoles controlled the majority of the front nine and started to close in on the back, needing one more match to win after winning 3&1 and 6&5. Matthew Kress nearly kept his match going after he made birdie on 16 as he was down three shots thru 15, but his putt lipped out on 17.
With Florida State up 2-0, Castillo was down two thru 15, with his fellow seniors Fred Biondi and John DuBois both rallying to tie their matches late into the round. Biondi jumped ahead with a win on 17 and secured the first point for Florida with tap-in par on 18. DuBois followed up with another clutch putt on the 18th hole, this time tying the match 2-2.
After dropping 15, Castillo made his way to the 16th tee box, two-down. The former SEC and NCAA Freshman of the Year, Castillo made par on 16 to cut the deficit to one shot. He then launched and drove the green on the 17th hole leading to a birdie and tying the match.
Castillo and his opponent, Brett Roberts, tied on the 18th hole and the next two playoff holes on 10 and 18. The two then made their way back to the 10th hole. Both landed drives in the fairway and followed with approach shots for birdie opportunities downhill. Roberts, a tad further away, went first and missed, leading to Castillo sinking the putt for the victory and a chance for the team championship. He improves his all-time collegiate match play record to 8-3-1.
The 21-hole match tied for the longest all-time at NCAAs, as the last was in 2016.
On his emotions down the stretch...
"All I'm thinking about is giving myself a chance to win the hole. Me and Brett (Roberts) went back and forth the whole day. It was a really tough match, and neither of us had our best stuff, but both of us grinded out really hard today and fought hard. I ended up getting the win, but it was a really good match and what a great competitor he is."
On how winning the SEC helped prepare them for getting to the finals...
"I think it helped a lot, just to stay tough and keep fighting. I know at one point it didn't look good for us, and then a couple of the guys brought us back. I knew I needed to flip match and I ended up doing it."
On if he read the winning putt for Ricky...
"I did not. I asked him, 'do you got this?' And he said yes and he did."
On what the team showed today...
"Earlier we were just dead. It was over. I honestly saw no way of winning it, but if our program's hands are in anyone hands, I want them to be in Ricky's. When he showed up on campus this whole thing turned around, and I couldn't be more happy that he got to make that putt for everyone."