Friday, November 27, 2020

Ole Miss Golf: Trending Upwards

By Drew Gillett
IMC student
hottytoddynews@gmail.com

Chris Malloy advises one of the Ole Miss Golf team members. Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics

Before Coach Chris Malloy returned to his alma mater in 2014, golf at Ole Miss needed a boost. But now, entering his seventh season, and despite a rough start for the team in the fall of 2020, some could say the state of golf at Ole Miss has never been better. 

Before returning home to Oxford, Malloy was an assistant coach at Florida State where he coached Brooks Koepka to ACC Player of the Year and helped lead the Seminoles to an ACC Championship and third-place finish at the NCAA Championships. 

Following his stint in Tallahassee, Malloy ventured to the University of South Florida to head up the Bull’s ailing golf program. As the head coach, Malloy took the Bulls from a 200th place ranking to a Top 15 program in just under three and a half years. He led the Bulls to their first-ever BIG EAST Tournament Championship and claimed BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors for himself. 

When the head coaching job opened up in Oxford, Malloy jumped at the opportunity to rejuvenate his alma mater’s program. 

“I had some ties to the program and timing was everything,” Malloy said.

Fifteen years ago, the Ole Miss golf program was indistinguishable from any other mediocre golf program in the country. Poor facilities, low emphasis on the program from the administration and abysmal involvement from the Oxford community restricted Ole Miss from recruiting the top talent in the South, and Mississippi, in particular. Malloy cites the revitalization of the Ole Miss Golf Course and The Country Club of Oxford as main catalysts for the transformation golf has taken in Oxford over the last decade. 

Malloy characterized the change in golf culture from his days on the team 20 years ago to now as “night and day.” 

When talking about The Country Club of Oxford, where the golf team practices several times a week, Malloy said, “Almost every day you get out there, the greens are perfect, and it’s in just great condition.”

So why is the South such a special place for recruiting and golf in general? Malloy touched on the country club culture of the South and the warm weather. 

“It seems like every community has a country club, and that’s where families converge and families grow up around them,” he said.

Malloy also mentioned how there is a direct correlation between the success of SEC football teams to the success of their respective golf programs. He mentioned that schools like Alabama and Clemson had average golf programs prior to the recent success of their football programs, but now they are some of the best golf programs in the country.

That correlation can be seen here in Oxford as well. Following the success of the football program during Coach Hugh Freeze’s tenure at Ole Miss, the golf program had its first NCAA National Champion in Braden Thornberry in 2017. 

“It certainly helps when you bring a kid on campus and you have 100,000 people packed in your stadium for a recruiting weekend,” Malloy said. 

Malloy cited clubhouse renovations to the 20-year-old golf team facilities at the Ole Miss Golf Course as needs in the near future. He also mentioned that the new Tosh Family Short Course has been a key addition to the golf team facilities at the Ole Miss Golf Course. 

As for the current state of golf in Oxford, it seems as though this might be its prime. 

“I certainly think that the golf culture, the golf vibe, in Oxford has trended upwards since I’ve been here,” Malloy said.