UCF men's golf earns first NCAA regional title since 2009, heads back to NCAA championship

Resiliance, strong play brings out UCF's best

(Courtesy UCF Athletics Communications)

COLLEGE GROVE, Tenn. – For the first time since 2009 and for the second time in program history, the University of Central Florida’s men’s golf team took home the NCAA regional title in College Grove, Tennessee, on Wednesday after coming from behind and overtaking No. 2 Vanderbilt, No. 14 Clemson and No. 39 Kennesaw State.

The Knights, who held second place after Tuesday’s performance, finished the tournament at 1 below par while Vanderbilt, Clemson and Kennesaw State all finished tied for second at 1 over.

The win was a result of UCF’s resilience on the course and strong coaching.

“With a couple holes to go, it kind of looked like we had a pretty good cushion," UCF golf coach Bryce Wallor said in a story on UCFKnights.com. "It was pretty neat to stand on the 18th hole. I have every player walk up -- it's a reachable par 5-- and I was just able to say to them, 'Hey, look, we're we're in a really good position, so you can relax.' And I kind of said, 'There's an outside chance we could win the tournament if we're aggressive.'”

Junior Manuel Elvira, sophomore Kyler Tate and senior Ryan Stovash, who helped fuel UCF’s run in the tournament, once again had strong performances aided by strong play coming from junior Juuso Kahlos.

Each member of the team tallied birdies on the final hole with the exception of Stovash, who eagled. It came off a nice shot that landed on the green for his second shot from his six-iron, 15 feet from the hole, which he sank to give UCF a comfortable 5-under lead.

“The thing I'm most proud of is for the guys who played bad early, they never had their head down," Wallor said. "The guys who played well early, they sparked our team. You saw Ryan really struggle the first day, and Kyler and Bobby (Bai) and Manny just killed it. Juuso's kind of always our rock. He doesn't always throw up a super low number, but man, you can count on him to count a score every time he plays. The kid just played an outstanding round of golf for the team today.”

But the aggressive play by Stovash and the rest of the team wasn’t the only big moment of the day. Elvira finished tied for third in the individual scores with a 5-under for the tournament fueled by an eagle on the par-5 seventh hole.  Tate finished fifth in the tournament with a 4-under.

“This was a great experience," Wallor said. "I'm really proud of these guys. They made a big effort to be more on their golf and do a good job in school this semester. They've turned out to be one hell of a team.”

The Knights will see action later in the month at the NCAA championships at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois. The Knights' seventh overall appearance in the tournament will take place May 26-31.