SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA (AP) – Holding a one-shot lead on the 18th tee, Fred Biondi (AP, pic below) put a towel over his head, took a few deep breaths and tried to take in the moment.
A long wait before the biggest tee shot of his life could have derailed the Florida senior. He instead used it to his advantage.
Composed all afternoon, Biondi shot a three-under 67 and rallied from a five-shot deficit to earn Florida’s third individual men’s NCAA golf championship on Monday.
“I was making jokes with my coach, talking about random things to keep my mind off it,” Biondi said. “Once my time is up, I have to step up, commit and hit a good one.”
He did all day.
Biondi shot two-under 35 on the front nine at Grayhawk Golf Club despite a double bogey on number seven. The senior from Brazil was three back after a bogey on 12th, but birdied the par-4 14th.
Biondi closed with four straight pars, two-putting from 50 feet on number 18 to finish at seven under. He joins Bob Murphy (1996) and Nick Gilliam (2001) as national champions at Florida while earning an invitation to next year’s Masters if he remains an amateur.
“I just tried to kind of stay calm and stay patient,” Biondi said. “You’re going to make mistakes out there and I feel like if I stay patient, I have a better chance of coming out on top.”
Steelman had a three-shot lead after 15 holes, but closed with three straight bogeys to open the door for Biondi. Steelman shot 73 to finish at six under.
Illinois’ Jackson Buchanan just missed a 20-foot birdie on No 18 that would have tied him with Biondi. He shot 67 to tie Georgia Tech’s Ross Steelman at six under.
“This season has been phenomenal,” Buchanan said. “There were some ups and downs, but it was great.”