Junior golfers Ryan Stovash and Ashley Holder may hold altered roles on opposite teams, but the duo’s path to UCF isn’t so different.
The two grew up in Orlando, attended Lake Nona High School, have known each other since they were about 8 and practiced on the same course together under the guidance of Holder’s father for a while.
“After school, we would go home, change and, literally, be out there from when school ended till dark,” Holder said. “He would just be out there every day with us.
“My dad was pretty much his second dad, and his family was pretty much my family.”
While Holder’s father is the reason she picked up a golf club, Stovash said he was an influential person in his game as well, especially since the two grew up down the road from each other.
“He was always out there when we were 10 to 16 years old; came home from work early to go out and help us practice,” Stovash said. “That played a big part in where I am today.”
Even though they brought the hometown connection to Knights country and both will be leaders of their respective teams this season, the two have different roles moving forward.
Men’s golfer Stovash, who was the top finisher in four consecutive events to close out the Knights’ 2014-15 season, will have a large impact in helping a young team adapt to college’s student-athlete life.
“It’s weird being the oldest guy on the team now, only being here for two years,” he said. “It’s more of just trying to help them out throughout the day: scheduling-wise, where to be, time management.
“On the golf course, we’ve got good players. They know how to play golf.”
Head coach Bryce Wallor knows that Stovash is more than capable of setting a good example for the underclassmen-heavy team.
“For Ryan, [there’s been] a huge change in maturity, as far as leadership, as far as taking ownership of his own game and taking ownership of our golf team this past January,” Wallor said. “I’m just really proud of him. It’s fun to watch kids grow up. It’s fun to watch kids mature.”
Stovash and the men’s team finished their first tournament of the 2015-16 season in seventh place, falling short of nationally ranked No. 1 Illinois and No. 10 UCLA among others in the in the two-day, 14-team event on Sept. 13.
On the other hand, Holder, who is the back-to-back American Athletic Conference Women’s Golfer of the Year, will lead her team on the scorecard as it aims for the NCAA Championships in Oregon.
“It’s hard, when you’re as good as Ashley, is you’ve got to start setting your goals higher and higher … She needs to break through really on a national stage. Her sights are more set on All-American status and winning a few more tournaments,” head coach Emily Marron said. “Our mantra has been ‘Road to Oregon.’”
Holder and the women’s team, which is ranked No. 31 in the nation, tied for ninth behind No. 9 Arkansas, No. 10 Wake Forest, No. 15 Virginia, No. 24 Florida in the 20-team, three-day tournament on Sept. 15.
Shooting 1-under and finishing tied for seventh out of 107 players, Holder is on her way to an AAC Player of the Year three-peat.
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JarrodHeil or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.