College Men

Chase Koepka and Chris Malloy lead charge at USF

Chase Koepka has won two tournaments for the South Florida Bulls this year, tying a school record as a sophomore.
Chase Koepka has won two tournaments for the South Florida Bulls this year, tying a school record as a sophomore. ( Tracy Wilcox )

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The South Florida Bulls met with their coach, Chris Malloy, after handing the USF Invitational trophy over to Florida State Tuesday, looking a bit defeated.

The team saw a final-day surge by the Seminoles melt away its nine-stroke lead through 36 holes. But, to Malloy, that feeling of defeat is one of the greatest indicators of the program's success.

"Before, in a weaker field, we were beating three, four teams and now we're disappointed we didn't win the title over top-10 teams," Malloy said. "If you look at the big picture, you've seen how far we've come. It's light years from what I first saw when I took over.

"Today stings. (But) we have so many positives to build on, so many great things. It speaks the world to where we've come as a program."

USF wouldn't be what it is today if it wasn't for a meeting between Malloy, then an assistant coach at Florida State, and a 13-year-old boy. The boy's older brother was being recruited heavily by Malloy. That would be Brooks Koepka, whose little brother, Chase, is now the cornerstone of the Bulls roster.

"When I wanted to get him here, we needed to build this program. We needed to build it around a couple of guys, and he was perfect," Malloy said. "He was our guy. With the relationship that we had, it was easy for me to sell him on that. He wanted to get out of his brother's shadow as well and make a name for himself at a university and with a program that was building into a national powerhouse."

Said Koepka: "You could tell that (Malloy) was a guy that wanted to win really badly. So do I. During the recruiting process and looking at other schools, I realized he has the same fire to want to win and build this program. I saw it, and it's showing right now with what we're doing."

Now, Koepka and Malloy are practically rewriting the program's record book.

The sophomore's two wins this season already tie him for most in a year and in a career in program history. He holds the record for lowest round and is three rounds of par or better away from breaking that record. Two of Malloy's three teams have placed No. 1 and 2 in program history in scoring average. The 2013-14 team, the fourth under Malloy at USF, is on pace to become the new record holder.

The duo has helped lead USF to a No. 28 listing in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. Koepka sits at No. 21 individually.

"I can't say enough about Chris. He was my assistant and I was the best man at his wedding," said Trey Jones, head coach at Florida State. "He's doing a great job here and he's going to continue to get better. He's got a great golf team right here and they're going to have a good year. He's a rising star in this profession and will be around for a long time."

Said Malloy: "I'm not surprised (by Koepka's success). If you know Chase, you know how competitive he is and you know he'll do whatever it takes to be successful. He's just such a grinder. He's starting to see that hard work pay off."

And just as Chase Koepka's collegiate stock is rising, Brooks Koepka's professional stock is moving in the same direction. The 23-year-old Florida State alum has played in four PGA Tour events this year, including the Frys.com Open, where he finished T-3.

Big brother's success has provided some extra motivation for Chase.

"We (competed) not only in golf, but in basketball, ping-pong, pool. We've had some good arguments, but, at the same time, I've always respected him. He's been my role model growing up," Koepka said. "... I've always looked up to what he's been doing because he's a great athlete. I just want to keep up with him, and I think I'm doing a pretty good job."

Brooks Koepka is known for his length off the tee. Chase Koepka, on the other hand, finds success around the green.

"Chase is just so talented. He may not do anything flashy, but he doesn't make a whole lot of mistakes," Malloy said. "People get lost in the guy that bombs it all the time and does all the flashy things. A guy like Chase may not hit it as far as everybody else, but he hits it straight and chips and putts.

“That's what it takes. That's the recipe, and he's got it."

Luckily, for Malloy, he’s got Koepka.