Three titles and number one in the country as a freshman, UNF golfing sensation Nick Gabrelcik is hungry for more

John Watson, Sports Editor

Featured Image: UNF Athletics

Usually, as a freshman, a new golfer to UNF’s program would need some time to adjust to the atmosphere and the intensity of collegiate golf. However, that is not the case for UNF’s rising star Nick Gabrelcik. The Florida native has won three titles this season and reached Golfstat’s D1 number one ranking.

Coming into the season, there was chatter about how the UNF men’s golf team could keep its ASUN championship-winning ways. The team had placed 22nd in the NCAA championship in 2019 and were on pace to improve in 2020 before COVID ruined their chances. Most of their 2020 players would return for 2021 with the addition of transfers and newcomers. Nobody could have predicted Gabrelcik’s sizzling impact.

UNF golfer Nick Gabrelcik has had a stellar start to his Freshmen year including three titles, four ASUN golfer of the week titles and even the Ozzie for Athlete of the year (UNF Athletics)

Now, with three titles under his belt, the team has only gotten better.

“I know I can compete, and I know what I need to do to compete,” Gabrelcik said in a phone interview. “I think that’s how I’ve had most of my success so far.”

Gabrelcik grew up in Trinity, Fla. golfing at his local course Fox Hollow Golf Club with his older brother Donnie. An article posted to Golfweek explains that when Nick was just 8 years old and Donnie was 13, Donnie would invite Nick to play rounds with him and a group of friends from Middle School in the summer. Donnie would let Nick play from the forward tees in these rounds, and throughout Nick’s junior years he pushed his younger brother to be a better player.

Gabrelcik would embrace the challenge of playing with more experienced and older players and credits that with helping his transition to college golf. In his high school years, not only was Gabrelcik a four-year all-conference golfer, but he also played in junior and amateur tournaments. One of the events that has kickstarted his amateur career was winning the Florida Match Play in 2018. In this event, he faced numerous Power Five D1 golfers and defeated them, which he says was a ‘confidence boost’ that he could compete with higher-ranked players.

The confidence boost led Gabrelcik to win two more Florida State Golf Association (FSGA) titles, and as a junior, Gabrelcik would check the world amateur rankings regularly to watch his ranking go up and down. Even after winning, he said his ranking wouldn’t go much lower than 600th, and that continued until he reached college.

Starting his college career with a fourth-place finish at the Timuquana collegiate was an excellent start for the new Osprey. Recording a bogey-free round on the final day, his college career was off to a great start. Just days later, in his second event, Gabrelcik won his first collegiate event at the Sea Best Invitational, which the team brought home the win in. 

Three more impressive outings later, Gabrelcik cemented himself as a young star on the team and was leading the team in scoring in almost every tournament. Gabrelcik then did even better. He won the General Hackler Invitational, his second title of the year. Then he did even better, winning the HAYT to capture his third title on the season. He calls this one his favorite win as the drama unfolded in the last few holes.

“I was leading by four, and then I had a mishap and ended up tripling [a hole],” Gabrelcik said. “This one was more okay, you almost lost it, but you still stuck with it and ended up pulling through. So I think this one means the most, showing that I can win with the lead and I can win coming back.”

The win at the HAYT elevated Gabrelcik to number one in the nation, where he sat until a sixth-place finish in Birmingham bumped him to second, where he currently sits. 

Gabrelcik’s game as an amateur player has translated well into college golf and even improving his putting with a putting coach he’s been working with these last few months. He says that coming up to Jacksonville has been crucial for his shot-making as well, as it is quite windier here, and he has worked on flighting his irons and his versatility on the course. Being on a college team with experienced guys, he’s also picked up a thing or two from them on the courses he’s not as familiar with.

Gabrelcik and his teammates also have ‘fun’ matches that they use as preparation for tournaments. While these are just for fun, the competitive environment means that no one wants to lose and hear about it for the next few days. These bragging rights are essential to Gabrelcik as playing for something has helped his game out in junior golf with his brother and now college golf with his new teammates.

While bragging rights are important, the team is getting ready for the upcoming ASUN championships this weekend as the team heads to Athens, Ga. Right now, the team is ranked 18th on Golfstat and is feeling confident they will take home the ASUN championship title if the team plays the way they’re capable of.

As for how Gabrelcik feels about being number two in the country, he’s got a few things to say.

“I’ve never had people travel to watch me, people I don’t know from other states,” Gabrelcik said. “So it’s kind of like, wow, they’re here to watch me, and I have no idea who they are. That was cool, but definitely a different experience. And now that I have felt that experience and I’m number two now, I definitely want to get back to number one as quickly as possible.”


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