By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - Big East postseason awards have been handed out and the future of USF men's golf has been rewarded for a promising start.
Trey Valentine has been named Big East Freshman of the Year and accompanying him on the All-Big East team is fellow freshman teammate Branden Collins.
"We're excited about the future of this program and having two freshmen named to the conference team is certainly an honor for our program," USF head coach Chris Malloy said. "I'm proud of the work that they put in and this is just the beginning of what we're trying to accomplish."
Valentine wasted no time making an impact as a collegiate player, posting three straight top-five finishes in the fall and the Melbourne, Fla., native wound up leading the Bulls with five finishes in the top 10, six top-25 finishes and a 71.9 stroke average in 24 rounds. The freshman of the year honor comes one week before Valentine continues his season in NCAA regional play May 17-19 at the University of Georgia Golf Course.
"It's definitely a huge accomplishment and a building block. It means a lot," Valentine said. "I've put in a lot of hard work this year on and off the golf course. It's nice to see a little bit of the results."
Valentine broke the All-Big East team news to Collins, now a close friend, via text message early Thursday afternoon and called duo's selections to the squad "a big deal."
Collins earned all-conference honors by posting two finishes in the top 10 and four in the top 25, including a tie for 19th at the Big East Championships. The Tallahassee native dealt with a lot of adversity along the way and played through an illness that slowed him for much of the spring season.
Valentine remembered Collins' toughness during the FAU Spring Break Championship back in March when Malloy kept him out of the first round because he didn't know if Collins could go a full 18 holes. Collins went all 18 the next day and finished the second round with a 70 that eventually helped the Bulls finish in a tie for sixth out of 15 teams.
"That shows a true competitor, a grinder, and it shows where his heart is at," Valentine said. "That's always nice to have that as a teammate."