In a lot of ways, Chris Malloy and the school that writes his paychecks, South Florida, are a lot alike.
Malloy, in his fourth year as the head coach of the Bulls, is young – as a 2001 grad, it wasn’t too long ago he was playing golf at Ole Miss.
His program is young too. The Bulls won their first-ever Big East title last year thanks to Malloy’s leadership and freshman phenom Chase Koepka’s strong performance.
The team had a solid fall, rising to No. 20 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. Malloy talked to Golfweek about the start and his expectations for the spring.
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What are your thoughts on your team’s performance in the fall?
“As a younger team, I wouldn’t say we overachieved, but we certainly seemed to click on all cylinders for most of the fall. Even when a guy like our ace, Chase Koepka, would have a bad round, somebody else would step up. It was a pretty consistent effort by the team, and with a young team you just don’t know what to expect. I was very pleased and hopefully they can carry that over to the spring.”
How good do you see Chase Koepka being, and what makes him good?
“I would say he’s the best I have coached at this stage. He just works so hard. He gets it. Even though he’s playing great golf, he’ll be the first one out here and one of the last ones to leave as well. It’s no secret as to why he’s been successful and it gives you a good feeling as a coach because if he continues to do the things he’s done, I really don’t see him playing too much bad golf down the road.”
Did you and Brooks Koepka (Chase’s older brother) have a relationship when you were an assistant at FSU?
“Absolutely and that’s why Chase is here. It’s funny to watch both of them because I’ve recruited both of them, I’ve known both of them for a long time and they’re completely different. Brooks was a physical specimen. He was built like a linebacker. He hit the ball a mile and really worked hard on his short game, but was a power player. Chase is not nearly as strong as Brooks was at that age and although he’s a great ball-striker as well, it’s not a power game.”
Do you think the American Athletic Conference can make a name for itself this season?
“Absolutely. We have as many teams ranked in the top 25 right now as any other conference in the country. With Central Florida consistently doing what they’ve done, Houston, SMU, Memphis, this golf conference is pretty darn deep. The amount of competition that we’re seeing right now is completely different than what we saw in the Big East. And it’s great for everybody. It gives everyone some credibility and it gives the league some credibility as a whole.”
Heading into the spring, what are you looking for out of your team? What are some names we could look for in the spring?
“We added Joseph Winslow, who was an All-American at Iowa. He was a mid-year transfer. We certainly look for him to come in and help us. As funny as it sounds, I’m looking for us to have a couple of poor rounds to see how we react. We didn’t have really any poor days of tournaments. Anyone that follows this sport knows that’s going to happen. Especially with a young team, they’re going to look like we have freshmen and sophomores on this team. I’m anxious to see how they respond to that. As far as names, it’s hard to say. Our two freshmen are only going to get better – Rigel Fernandes and Ryan Borg. I really look for Trey Valentine. He had a really great freshman year. Things didn’t really go his way last year as much. He struggled a little bit in the fall, but I think you’re going to see some really good golf out of him as well.”
Do you have goals set for your team as a progression?
“Yes. But championships are what we’re about. That’s the ultimate goal. I’m not going to say anything less than that is a failure, but those are certainly our goals. I think every program in the country, A, has a conference championship as a goal and certainly a national championship. However, the way to achieve a national championship is to get in that final eight. Because once you get into match play in the national championships, that’s the beauty of it, anything can happen.”