Sunday, February 28, 2021

COLUMN: Malloy Wrapped Up Spring Season in Unusual Fashion while Looking to Future

By Richard Swift
IMC Student

Chris Malloy is a veteran of college golf wars, both as a player and as a coach. But this spring was like no other he has experienced, which was the case for everyone associated with college sports.

“We can’t practice. We can’t play. We can’t have team meetings,” Malloy said in April as the school year was winding down and students were doing classwork online.

It was in March that the entire sports year came to a screeching halt.

Malloy has completed six years now as the head coach in Oxford. Before he arrived, several talented golfers had been under Malloy’s influence, including Brooks Koepka at Florida State, where Malloy was an assistant coach, and Brooks’ brother, Chase Koepka, at South Florida, where he was the head coach before returning to Ole Miss. Malloy was the 2013 Big East Coach of the Year.

Another notable player, Braden Thornberry, competed for Ole Miss under Malloy and won the first NCAA individual national championship in Ole Miss history in 2017. Also that year the Olive Branch, Miss., native earned the Fred Haskins Award, which is simply awarded to the “nation’s most outstanding player.” That summer, also as an amateur, he placed fourth in his PGA Tour debut at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis.

Thornberry is now competing as a professional on the Korn Ferry Tour working to earn his PGA TOUR card. I met Braden this past summer while I was working Korn Ferry tournaments all over the country.

Throughout his six years at Ole Miss, Malloy has brought the Rebels along as a program slowly but effectively. By 2018-2019, the Rebels had made their 3rd NCAA Regional appearance.

Unfortunately, this season was put to a halt due to the unprecedented crisis we are experiencing, and another postseason tournament was not there for them to participate in. Most of the Ole Miss team returned to their hometowns and are expected to practice at their own pace, considering any courses that were open in their area. The Ole Miss golf course was closed for the remainder of the school year, so there was nothing here for these golfers.

Collegiate golfers found it difficult to practice with most courses closed. They were forced to play subpar courses that have remained open for some reason. One could even argue playing courses such as those could bring your game down as opposed to up.

It seems all coaches, including Malloy, no matter the sport at the collegiate level, are on the same page when it comes to recruiting. Recruiting never stops, ever. Stats, scores, and videos are out there for coaches to browse, so that is just what Malloy is doing.

The season coming to a premature end was heartbreaking, especially for the seniors. Some of them unknowingly played their last competitive round of golf on March 10 in the Lamkin San Diego Classic.

Winning is easier when you have a guy like Braden Thornberry on the roster. But in recent years, Malloy and assistant coach Matt Bortis, who is in his first year at Ole Miss, recruited and developed young players. Working with the young guys proved to be beneficial with Cecil Wegener, Jackson Suber, and Sarut Vongchaisit continuing to progress.

Malloy is confident that with his talented young players and with recruiting future players, the direction of the program is heading up. He hopes to watch it grow into what he knows the program can be.

Malloy took Ole Miss golf to the next level the year he started coaching. He said he is grateful for the opportunity to coach at Ole Miss, especially since he is a former Rebel player.

“I want to finish my coaching career as a Rebel,” he said. “I am ecstatic to remain here for years to come.”

Malloy accepted that the season was over and that the future was what mattered as the school year came to a close.

“The best thing we can do is get our minds right, recruit, and stay well,” Malloy said.