DADE CITY, Fla. – Chase Koepka is a very talented golfer, but all great players need help.
The Palm Beach, Florida native and University of South Florida sophomore shot a 1 under 71 Tuesday to finish tied for fifth at the USF Invitational Golf Tournament at Lake Jovita Country Club, his fourth top-five finish in six events this season, which includes two wins.
USF head coach Chris Malloy has been there every step of the way through Koepka’s collegiate career and the young golfer couldn’t be happier with the relationship that the two share.
“It’s been really, really close; he’s known me since I was 13,” Koepka said. “He’s watched me grow up, and watched me develop into who I am today and he’s been a big part of the golfer that I am, and person that I am on and off the golf course. We treat each other like family.”
Koepka came to South Florida as an 18-year-old baby-faced freshman in the fall of 2012 and has been a sponge ever since, learning all he can from Malloy. The coach was a fine player in his own right at Ole Miss a decade ago, graduating in 2001.
“He’s been a really good putting coach for me,” Koepka said.
“That was a big thing. Thorough practices, working on [my] short game that’s gotten a lot better since I’ve been here.
“But the biggest thing has been my mental game. Just learning how to face adversity when it comes my way and I think that’s what has led me to have two wins this year.”
Koepka was fortunate enough to have both parents witness his solid play throughout the tournament and they both endorsed the work that Malloy has done with their son.
“Chris and Chase connect on a very special level,” Koepka’s mother Denise said. “I don’t know if he’d be where he is today without him.”
Those are strong words from a mother so joyful to see her son succeeding at such a young age. Koepka’s father Bob thinks back to his son’s freshman year and what the two have accomplished since then.
“Chris wanted Chase to be the leader, to be the guy that led this team to its first big east championship, and he did that,” Bob said. “He’s really helped him mentally.”
The importance of the player-coach relationship differs between players and where their preferences lie, but the level-headed Koepka is not shy in crediting Malloy for all he’s done.
In typical golfer fashion, despite Koepka’s exceptional year, he’s always looking to improve.
“I just need to keep working on my fundamentals.”
If those fundamentals get any better, only time will tell how much the Koepka-Malloy tandem will accomplish.
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Chiks and Copper Pollock