By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA – To be the best you first have to beat the best. That’s head coach Chris Malloy’s mind set heading into another tough tournament for USF this weekend.
The Bulls will tee off against five top-25 teams at the Linger Longer Invitational that starts Saturday at the Great Waters Course at Reynolds Plantation in Georgia. The 14-field includes No. 2 Alabama, No. 7 Georgia Tech, No. 10 Georgia, No. 18 Oklahoma State, No. 24 Oklahoma, Minnesota, Michigan State, Penn State, No. 2 Alabama, UNC-Charlotte, Jacksonville, Liberty and co-hosts Mercer and Kennesaw State.
“There are no guaranteed wins by any stretch of the imagination. This is the best field we’ve played in all year and it’s a great opportunity,” Malloy said. “That’s why we play this schedule. We’re trying to be the No. 1 golf program in the country and we need to compete in fields like this.”
The Bulls fared well against some of the nation’s other top teams last weekend at the Seminole Intercollegiate in Tallahassee. USF placed fourth in its fourth consecutive top-10 finish and it was a complete team effort.
“Everyone had a piece in our success. I think that breeds confidence among the guys,” Malloy said. “They’ve shown some great consistency and with a young team that’s what you’re looking for.
“In the fall we were up and down, but I think we’ve settled down and seen what it takes to compete at the highest level,” Malloy added.
Freshman Chase Koepka placed 13th individually in his fifth top-15 finish in seven tournaments as a Bull. The West Palm Beach native grabbed the lead in the first round when he carded a 7-under 65.
“It’s tough to have that level of consistency no matter what year you are in school. For a freshman to show up every single week has been impressive,” Malloy said. “He has a knack for listening. He’s done a great job of doing everything we’ve asked him to do and that’s why he’s going to continue to progress.