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Deven Patel takes home hardware as Cavaliers grab third-place finish at the John Hayt Invitational

Virginia came out with their second podium performance of the spring in Ponte Vedra, all led by an extravagant first career win from junior Deven Patel

<p>Patel played brilliantly, clinically dispatching of the course’s most difficult stretches with ease aside from a double-bogey and quadruple-bogey in his first round.&nbsp;</p>

Patel played brilliantly, clinically dispatching of the course’s most difficult stretches with ease aside from a double-bogey and quadruple-bogey in his first round. 

Following a strong start to the spring campaign in which Virginia has stamped itself as a premier team in the country with a second-place finish at the Puerto Rico Classic and a fourth-place mark at the Watersound Collegiate, the Cavaliers made their way down to Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra, Fla., for the John Hayt Invitational. The event had a tremendous field, featuring five teams in the most recent GCAA top-25 poll, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, North Florida and Duke. 

The Cavaliers found themselves near the top, within striking range of the leading Crimson Tide and in fourth place after a strong opening score of 71 from sophomore Ben James. They would not relinquish their top five position for the remainder of the tournament. Junior Deven Patel and senior Chris Fosdick also finished the round with sub-75 scores to anchor a team score of 294 in the opening day of play.

Virginia came out of the gate blazing in the second round Sunday, with Patel recording a four-under 68, which tied for the lowest round of the day before carding a bogey on the 201-yard par-3 15th hole. However, he recovered with a clutch birdie on the par-5 18th hole to head into the clubhouse tied for sixth place on the day, but still in a solid position overall.

However, stagnant performances from James, Fosdick, junior Paul Chang and sophomore Bryan Lee prevented the Cavaliers from moving up the leaderboard, as they remained stuck in fourth and still trailing by 11 strokes to the now-leading Tar Heels. 

All weekend, the Cavaliers had been looking for a time and place to make a move, and their time finally came Monday when Patel, Chang and Lee all recorded sub-par outings — Patel and Lee with a pair of 71s and Chang with a team-low 70.

When all was said and done, a middling first day of competition was all that stood between Virginia and its first team win of the spring. North Carolina found themselves playing really consistent golf, recording a pair of scores at 289 along with a 283 in the second round to grab the win and show everyone just why they are currently ranked second in the nation.

The performance was a hopeful one for the Cavaliers, however, as the team’s core players were able to maintain composure as they struggled to find their groove on a course where good scores could be made, waiting and finding success once their time arrived to make a push on the third day. 

Perhaps the greatest takeaway for the Virginia squad was the groundbreaking performance of Patel, who came away with his first individual victory of his collegiate career after stringing together a 74, 68 and 71 to finish at 3-under. Patel played brilliantly, clinically dispatching of the course’s most difficult stretches with ease aside from a double-bogey and quadruple-bogey in his first round. He becomes just the second Virginia player to capture an individual title this season, following in the footsteps of Lee, who tied for first place earlier this spring at the Puerto Rico Classic.

The Cavaliers will look to build on their performance this weekend as they look ahead to next week’s Linger Longer Invitational at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Great Waters Course at Reynolds Resort in Greensboro, Ga.

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