TAMPA — In the last year, the University of South Florida men’s golf program has built a sterling reputation.
The Bulls, coming off a Big East Conference tournament championship, finished one stroke from qualifying for the NCAA Championships. After a productive fall, the Bulls were recognized with a program-best No. 14 ranking. Sophomore Chase Koepka, ranked No. 6 nationally in the fall after two individual championships, was named to the Ben Hogan Award watch list.
Bulls coach Chris Malloy is eager to see how the team performs in the USF Invitational, which runs Sunday through Tuesday at the Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club in Dade City. Florida, Florida State, Auburn and Illinois are in the 17-team field.
“We better bring our A game or we’ll get steamrolled on our home turf,’’ Malloy said. “But this kind of competition is what we want.’’
USF already has something to prove after finishing 10th in the 15-team Bayou Collegiate Classic at Houston, where Malloy said the team “laid a bit of an egg.’’ Top individual performers included Joseph Winslow (tied for 10th, finishing with back-to-back 70s) and freshman Ryan Borg (tied for 21st).
“We proved in the fall we can beat anybody,’’ Malloy said. “Last year, we were ranked around 50th. Now we’re 14th, but we’re still very young. These guys have confidence, though. We’re deeper and more prepared to beat the top teams in the nation.
“These guys are not afraid, and they have belief. That’s half the battle in golf. After last season, they know what the light at the end of the tunnel is (NCAA Championships). They know what to be prepared for. That sort of experience is priceless. Now it’s a matter of going out there and performing in our home-course tournament. I think we’re ready.’’
Nevins on a roll
USF senior softball pitcher Sara Nevins, a two-time All-American, began 0-2 this season. But now she’s on a roll. Nevins earned her second consecutive American Athletic Conference pitcher of the week award. She allowed two runs in 16 innings with 15 strikeouts during a 4-1 week for the Bulls at the NFCA Lead-Off Classic in Clearwater.
Her statistics have returned to Nevins-like form: 1.59 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 44 innings.
The Bulls had several notable performances, including a combined no-hitter (Erica Nunn and Nevins) against Illinois State and a big-time rally against No. 20-ranked Louisiana-Lafayette (USF surrendered five runs in the top of the first inning, then rallied for an 8-5 victory).
USF (8-5) hosts No. 11 Stanford on Friday afternoon at 2:15 in the USF Under Armour Invitational.
USF sophomore Courtney Williams was named AAC women’s basketball player of the week after scoring a career-high 35 points against Temple. But the outstanding numbers didn’t stop there. In Tuesday’s 91-68 win against Memphis, USF’s Inga Orekhova had a career-high 33 points (10 of 13 shooting), while Alisia Jenkins added 21 points and 18 rebounds. … The two USF football players invited to the NFL Combine — DLs Aaron Lynch and Tevin Mims — did not impress. Lynch had 18 repetitions at 225 pounds in the bench press, while Mims managed 17 (only nine of the 42 defensive linemen benched fewer than 20 reps). Mims (measured at 6-foot-4, 260 pounds) ran the 40-yard dash in 4.95 seconds. Lynch (6-5, 249) elected not to run. USF’s Pro Day, where all of the school’s draft-eligible players can be measured in physical drills, is March 10. … USF women’s soccer opened its spring exhibition season with a 1-1 draw against China’s Under-20 National Team. The Bulls face national runner-up Florida State on Sunday in Tallahassee.