New Beginnings


June 18, 2014

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By Bill Morrison
UCFKnights.com

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF men’s golf team can proudly hang their hats on any number of accomplishments in 2013-14, despite coming up just short of reaching the NCAA Championship for a third consecutive season. 

The team was a top-three finisher in eight of its 11 events, reached a program-best No. 5 national ranking and took home numerous conference honors, including senior Greg Eason being named American Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

The Knights’ 2013-14 campaign began back in September with back-to-back wins. They would repeat this feat again with back-to-back wins in March and April leading up to The American Championship. The team finished top-five or better in every event until the NCAA Regional, where they finished seventh, just missing a trip to the NCAA Championship. 

The Knights were led by senior sensations Eason and Ricardo Gouveia. The pair combined to record 18 Top 10 finishes, 45 rounds of par or better and season scoring averages of 70.2 and 71.0, respectively. In 11 events, Eason was UCF’s top finisher six times, while Gouveia led the way four times. 

Eason’s Player of the Year award was his second-straight, after winning the same award in Conference USA last season. He was also named First Team All-Conference, and the American’s Player of the Week in April. Eason was one of two Knights recognized by the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) as he was named to the Ping All-Region Team. In addition to his two wins as a Knight this season, he was the 2013 South Beach International Amateur Champion and is already preparing for his professional career up north, after earning exempt status on PGA TOUR Canada for 2014.

Gouveia was the only Knight who made the trip to Kansas for the NCAA Championship. He qualified as an individual after he turned in a 213 (-3) and finished tied for fifth at the San Antonio Regional. He was also named First Team All-Conference and to the Ping All-Region Team. Gouveia, a native of Portugal, was chosen to represent Team Europe in this month’s Palmer Cup, an annual Ryder Cup-style event set for June 26-28 at the Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England. 

In addition to Eason and Gouveia, the Knights will also be losing senior Kyle Wilshire, who was key to their success this season. Wilshire competed in all 11 events posting a scoring average of 73.1. He finished in the Top 10 three times, shot par or better 12 times and was the only player other than Eason or Gouveia to lead the Knights, when he finished fourth at the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational back in October. 

While it was a very successful season, the Knights did not reach their ultimate goal – playing in the NCAA Championship. Junior Linus Vaisanen and freshmen Ryan Stovash and Federico Zucchetti will lead a new iteration of the Knights next season as the team will look to take the next step toward a conference championship and an appearance at the NCAA Championship.

UCFKnights.com sat down with head coach Bryce Wallor to discuss the season and the future of UCF men’s golf. 

UCFKnights.com: A great season for the UCF men, they finished top five or better in 10 events and seventh at regionals. They had the best overall record in school history, were ranked No. 5 nationally, tying the highest ranking in program history and brought home several conference awards. But the team fell just short of its goal of advancing to the NCAA Championship. How does the team feel about their accomplishments?

Coach Wallor: I think everyone was really proud of our regular season. As you mentioned, we were ranked as high as No. 5 by Golfstat, which is the ranking that really counts for our team and we finished the year ranked No. 6 in the country. The effort level from our student-athletes on the golf course and the classroom this year was absolutely outstanding. We graduated three seniors, one of which has been announced as a First-Team All American, Greg Eason. Ricardo Gouveia also earned Third Team All-America honors, it's just a questions of which team he will fall upon and Kyle Wilshire will be a two-time Academic All-American. The leadership and work ethic of those young men has really led our program to the success we have had in the last few years. We peaked this year with that leadership and now we will have to look to rebuild. 

UCFKnights.com: It seemed like this team peaked at the perfect time, winning back-to-back events leading up to the Conference Championship. They were unable to maintain that momentum, finishing runner-up at conference and seventh at NCAA Regionals, just missing a trip to Kansas.  What do you think was the difference in those last two events?

Coach Wallor: Throughout the fall semester, we were pretty deep. We started the year without Jose Joia, who was an all-event starter for two years. We expected him to play this year and he came up with an injury that took the better part of the year to control. In the fall, we really had six players competing for five spots and it was a really good fight to get into the lineup each week via qualifying. I feel that with our great success in the fall, some of the guys, not all of them but some of them, took a step back. They looked at where they were and maybe didn't push as hard as they could have. In the spring semester, throughout the qualifying process we were not competitive. In practice, we had people getting into tournaments by earning spots their spots through qualifying, but it was not competitive. It was not guys playing their best golf in order to get into the lineup. That really hurt us late in the spring. We won at FAU and again at Augusta but if you look at the rounds of golf and the way we counted scores, when a guy didn't play well another guy picked him up. What happened to us in the conference championship in the final round was we didn't have that player farther back in the lineup really play well. At the regional, unfortunately we just had a couple guys play poorly in the second round. They prepped as hard as they could, did their work, but just just didn't play well. I think our lack of success in the postseason really fell upon us not being competitive in practice. Not one-to-three but one-to-five, making sure all five guys were really hitting on all cylinders. 

UCFKnights.com: Senior Greg Eason had an outstanding year. Two wins, AAC Golfer of the Year, all-conference and Ping All-Region selections. He also won the 2013 South Beach International Amateur and earned exempt Status on PGA TOUR Canada. Can you tell us about Greg and what the expectations were coming into the season? 

Coach Wallor: When he comes off being a First-Team All-American the year before, he at that point is already the best player in school history, as an amateur and as a UCF golfer. We have certainly had some others go out and do a nice job professionally. Greg has a work ethic that cannot be matched by too many people. Golf is the first and foremost important thing to him. He puts all of the time, thought, and hard work necessary into being successful. He matured emotionally each year, from freshman to sophomore and sophomore to junior. In his senior year he really exuded some more maturity on the golf course in his decision-making, attitude and post-shot reaction to negativity. To follow up another year as a First-Team All American, he is the only UCF Golfer in school history to be a First-Team All-American and he has done it twice. 

UCFKnights.com: Senior Ricardo Gouveia also had a big year. He was an all-conference, Ping All-Region and Third-Team All-America selection and was chosen to represent Team Europe in the Palmer Cup. He was the only Knight who qualified as an individual for the NCAA Championship where he finished tied for 35th. Tell us a little about Ricardo and his game.

Coach Wallor: Ricardo transferred in as a sophomore and hit it out of the block right away. I believe he had All-America Honorable Mention status his first year. He continued to improve and get better and he earned third team recognition as an All-American this year. Coming into this season, he continued to work hard on his golf game and his academics. He is a very driven and focused guy who wants to be a professional player. We had two players nominated to the Palmer Cup but Greg (Eason) turned professional, so Ricardo will represent UCF (at the Palmer Cup) in the coming weeks and then look to turn professional after that. He has had an amazing career, is an amazing young guy and is someone who is really going to be missed. 

UCFKnights.com: With the departure of seniors Eason, Gouveia and Wilshire, what will next year’s team look like and what are the expectations?

Coach Wallor: I hate to put a lot of expectations on anyone. Losing someone like Kyle Wilshire will be tough. He is a guy that we nicknamed "The General." He helped our program so much, was in the right place at the right time and made sure people were doing the right things. When you lose leadership like that and you lose experience from the standpoint of the play of Greg and Ricardo, the future obviously doesn't have a clear-cut picture. We knew coming into this year what we had. I will be excited next year to see Jose (Joia) come back into the lineup as a senior. We have Linus (Vaisanen) who will return to play as well as Federico Zucchetti and Ryan Stovash, so we have some guys who will bring experience from this very successful year. We have three young players coming in, one from Finland, one from Spain and one from the U.S. who are all very talented players. I really wish I could tell you what is in front of us. I know there is a lot of hard work coming, I know we are going to play a very tough tournament schedule next year. We are going to find out how good we are very quickly. 

UCFKnights.com: What does this new team need to do next season in order to maintain or even get to that next level, win conference and advance to the NCAA Championship?

Coach Wallor: I think the first thing you need to look at is the youth of our program. We are going to have two guys who will be sophomores and three who will be freshmen. We are going to be a young team. Generally, young can be slightly immature. Looking back at myself when I was 18 or 19 there was a big difference to when I was 21 or 22. How fast we mature throughout this year is going to be important. Decision-making generally falls in the maturity category as does the ability to listen and work hard. It's going to depend on our maturity and the leadership we get from our returning players.

 


 

 

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