ORLANDO, Fla. – The patio outside Rio Pinar Country Club looked like an NFL locker room. First came Brad Schneider, ice on his right wrist, a brace around his left ankle. Then came Kyle Wilshire, dragging around his twice-repaired right knee. And then came Nuno Henriques, hobbling down the stairs, a few hours from meeting with a foot specialist.
That Central Florida prevailed in its home event March 15 was significant. It was the Knights’ second victory of the season, and the conference championship is six weeks away, not three, not two. Meaning, of course, that there is plenty of time to heal all that ails this team. Because for now, at least, UCF requires a full-page medical report, and the school’s trainers to work late nights and early mornings.
“It’s a golf team with all these injuries,” Henriques said. “Like, how do you even do that?”
With a stretch of bad luck, it seems. Schneider, a junior, hit a root during his opening 36 holes and wasn’t sure if he’d be able to play Tuesday, even after two treatments. More serious was his leg injury suffered in November 2006. He broke his right leg during a game of touch football, and complications during surgery caused his left leg to be disfigured. He plays with a custom brace on his ankle.
Wilshire tore the meniscus in his right knee during his senior year of high school and underwent surgery, but the reattachment didn’t take. During rehab, he tore the meniscus again. Less than four months later, he’s back in the starting lineup. “It kind of got me bummed,” he said, “but to be back and playing at a high level, it’s kind of a blessing, I guess.”
Many college events are contested with 36 holes on the first day, then 18 during the final round. For Wilshire, 18 years old and on his third reconstructed knee, that first day can be exhausting. “It’s just part of it, you know?” he said. “I’ve got many more events to come, that’s for sure.”
The most puzzling injury belongs to Henriques, who has been bothered by foot pain since the Isleworth Collegiate in October. (Last year, he was dogged by neck and shoulder inflammation.) Sometimes he’ll go 2-3 weeks without any discomfort, but not this week. Early Tuesday, before the start of the final round, Henriques walked up to UCF coach Bryce Wallor and said, “I’ll play, I don’t know what I’ll post for you, but I’ll finish.” Henriques tied for seventh.
“You can only hope to have resilient, tough guys who want to compete and play no matter what,” Wallor said, “and we have that.”
The Knights were tested even more two weeks ago, at the USF Invitational. One of their best players, junior Connor Arendell, got food poisoning after the opening round and couldn’t compete the rest of the tournament, leaving the team with only four players (whose scores must count).
“Granted, it’s better now than at the conference championship or regionals or finals,” Wallor said. “We’ll work through it.”
UCF, No. 36 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, will be aiming for a second consecutive Conference USA title next month in Arkansas. The Knights figure to be even more competitive this year, thanks to the addition of a strong freshman class headlined by Englishman Greg Eason, whom Wallor recruited through a former player, Charlie Ford, who now competes on the European Challenge Tour. Eason tied for third in helping UCF capture its home event, the Rio Pinar Invitational, for the fourth consecutive year Tuesday.
“I think they’re a good team, I think they’re competitive, and I think they want to make a name for themselves,” Wallor said.
They’ll certainly have the chance – if they can stay upright.