UCF's Stovash proving to be amongst nation's best
WINDERMERE, Fla. – When Central Florida freshman Ryan Stovash stepped up to the tee box Tuesday morning, he was getting ready to play alongside the best golfers he’d ever been grouped with.
But Stovash was never star-struck.
He shot rounds of 70, 71 and 72, finishing in a tie for fifth place at the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational, which featured some of the nation’s best players.
Stovash was grouped with Alabama’s Bobby Wyatt, a senior All-American, and California’s Brandon Hagy, also a senior All-American. Stovash’s first round was the lowest of his collegiate career, and on the final day he beat out Wyatt by two strokes and fell to Hagy by only one.
“All three days I played with the best golfers I’ve ever played with. And I managed to do pretty well against them,” Stovash said. “It brings a lot of confidence. I know I can compete with them now. I don’t need to back off or be afraid.”
He ended up finishing ahead of the likes of Michael Kim, Michael Weaver, Gavin Hall, Beau Hossler, Robby Shelton and Cory Whitsett, to name a few.
For UCF, it’s not just the sign of a promising future, it could mean immediate help. UCF coach Bryce Wallor has been searching for a consistent help behind senior All-American Greg Eason and veteran Ricardo Gouveia.
The need for depth became apparent as the team fought to keep up with Alabama on Tuesday. Eason struggled, finishing his final round at 6-over 78. But the Knights kept a hold on second place, even with their star senior’s score being thrown out.
“That’s big. On the last day, when your looking at your first team All-American and he’s not having his best day and the other guys are picking him up, that shows we have some strength and some gritty guys,” Wallor said. “I think that points well for the rest of this year, and after we lose this great senior class, for the future of this program.”
Part of that success could be attributed to Stovash, who was a model of consistency. The freshman railed off a string of nine straight pars as his team made its final bid to catch Alabama, the eventual winner.
“I like boring rounds. Boring rounds are better than having a couple of bogeys. I got a little frustrated at points, but 72 is not a bad round out here,” Stovash said. “Our coach does a really good job with the game plan around here. You’ve got to hit the middle of greens here, and that’s what I did all week. I saw a lot of mistakes even from the best players in the world.”
He might not have been booming the ball like Hagy, or having a first-team All-American-year like Wyatt, but Stovash proved he was not lost among the nation’s best.
“[He’s] a complete and total feisty competitor,” Wallor said. “If you look at Ryan, he’s a small guy, only 130 pounds. But he has great clubhead speed and he’s really not going to back down to anybody. You can’t teach that. That’s just something that someone has or doesn’t have.
“We’re glad that’s on our team.”