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Sophomore Ryan Stovash stepped onto the first tee box in the final pairing of the day at the FAU Slomin Autism Invite on March 29. He held a one-stroke lead over the 114-player field.

After two rounds, Stovash was confident in every aspect of his game and felt that he would walk off the 18th green as the champion for the first time in his Knights' career.

He was correct.

"I didn't really feel as nervous as I thought I would, being in that situation. I felt like my game was where I wanted it to be," Stovash said. "It was nice to get the juices flowing getting into crunch time, and being able to execute and stay focused."

The win marked his first as a Knight. It was also the third-consecutive event he led UCF in scoring, and he extended it to four in a row last week at the 3M Augusta Invitational last weekend. Each feat has helped him improve to the No. 716 amateur golfer in the world, according to the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

"That's such a positive experience, because now when he gets in that situation again, he's going to know what it feels like, he's going to know how his body reacts and he's going to have some more success," head coach Bryce Wallor said.

Stovash credits the next step in his game in part to Wallor, as well as qualifying for the U.S. Amateur Championship over the summer, which included 23 of the top 25 amateur golfers in the world.

Even though he missed the cut at the latter tournament in Georgia, qualifying for the contest gave his game the reassurance he needed to begin his second season in the college ranks.

"It showed me that I can compete with the best players in the world," Stovash said. "I didn't play my best at the U.S. Am, but just being there and being in the heat of moment and the bigger atmosphere was definitely a boost of confidence."

After playing in eight of 11 events for the No. 6 ranked Knights last season, Stovash has played all nine tournaments this season. During his first place finish, he shot UCF's one-round low score of the season with a 67.

"He wants to be great, and that's a really neat attribute. But when people have that attribute, they'll sometimes force things," Wallor said.

Stovash has had to take on a slightly different role this year because three of six golfers who participated in events for the Knights last season graduated at the end of spring. All three are now professional golfers.

"Even though I'm only a sophomore, I feel like I need to be one of the leaders on the team," Stovash said. "[The win] really seemed to help my confidence already. I can feel it."

Stovash is thankful for the time he got to spend as an understudy to his three former teammates, especially with three years left at UCF.

"[I'm] very thankful that I was here for one year when Greg [Eason] was here," he said. "I've never seen someone have as much patience and self-confidence in what he was doing in his golf swing."

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Jarrod Heil is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future. Find him on Twitter@JHeil11.

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