Back Home Again

Chris Malloy is on the recruiting trail. He’s wasted no time looking for talented golfers to become Rebels since being hired as the Ole Miss head men’s golf coach earlier this summer.

The former Rebel golfer said he’s not back here for anything less than championships.

“We’re going to win and we’re going to win big. I can promise you that,” said Malloy, who played on two NCAA Tournament teams, graduating from Ole Miss in 2001. “I don’t have a timetable, and I can’t predict when it’s going to happen. But I can promise you it will happen.”

Malloy comes back to Mississippi at a good time. There are more talented junior golfers in the state than perhaps at any point in the history of golf in the Magnolia state.

“We have some great talent and some absolute game changers coming through our state,” he said, fully aware of the level of talent among junior high and high school players in Mississippi. “We’re experiencing a run of talent like we’ve never seen in the state of Mississippi for junior golf. It just speaks to the support of junior golf throughout the state. They’ve done a good job of promoting junior golf, and that certainly helps us.”

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t talent at Ole Miss now. Malloy believes his first team, recruited to Ole Miss by former head coach Ernest Ross, can be good.

“I think we’re a lot better off than people might think,” he said. “Coach Ross did a good job leaving the program with some talent. We’re going to change the culture, and this is a good opportunity to do that. We’re going to figure out who buys in, and I believe they will. They’re craving to win, and we have some talent that I think we can win with in the short term. I really do.

“Blake Morris has All-American potential and is a senior who will help lead the team. Ben Wolcott is a sophomore. Joe Lewis is another senior who just qualified for the U.S. Amateur in Atlanta next month. You don’t just walk up and get into a U.S. Amateur. That’s huge.”

Malloy, who played for former Ole Miss men’s head coach Woody Cowart, hired another former Rebel golfer, Kyle Ellis, as the program’s new assistant coach. Ellis was a successful player for the Rebels from 2004-08 and is from nearby Senatobia.

“We're extremely excited to have Kyle and his wife, Lauren, back in Oxford,” Malloy said. “It is truly a special opportunity anytime you can bring a former player back to help lead the current team. Kyle has had tremendous success as a player, winning multiple events on the collegiate and professional level.”

Two former players leading the program know what Ole Miss is all about.

“Two Ole Miss alums,” Malloy said. “There’s nobody that can sell this great place like we can.”

So how does he sell it to future Rebel golfers?

“The greatest college experience in the country,” Malloy said. “I came from Virginia, and I chose to come to Ole Miss. Once people get on campus like I did and see what we have to offer, there’s no other experience from the campus to the people to the town like Ole Miss.

“And then obviously we’re playing in the SEC. We’re the best conference in golf in the country. These players want to be on the PGA Tour. They’ve got everything they need to achieve those goals at Ole Miss.”

The golf facilities are better than ever at Ole Miss but will continue to be a work in progress, as all athletics facilities are.

“We’ve gone in the right direction,” Malloy said. “In my initial conversations with Ross (Bjork), he is absolutely committed to provide us with the best facilities possible. I need to get in there and find out what we’re missing, what’s needed, and then we’re going to get it. We’ll address that quickly. Our facilities as they are now are night and day from when I was here. I wish I’d had them. But we’ll have (improvements) taken care of.”

Last season, South Florida advanced to its second-straight NCAA Regional under Malloy, serving as the Bulls’ head coach, and just the third in school history after a fourth-place finish at the American Athletic Conference Championships. The Bulls finished the season ranked No. 33 in the nation by Golfweek.

In 2013, Malloy guided a young group of Bulls to the school's first-ever BIG EAST tournament championship earning BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors. USF advanced to the NCAA Tallahassee Regional and came within one stroke of a berth to the NCAA championship rounds, falling to Oklahoma in a playoff.

In his first season in Tampa, the Bulls equaled their best-ever finish at the BIG EAST Championships with a tie for fourth place, earned four top-six tournament finishes and improved their stroke average from 308.3 in four fall tournaments to 298.5 in five spring events.

In year two, Malloy helped USF to the nation's largest gain in the national rankings, leading the Bulls to be named Golfweek Magazine's Fastest Rising Program. South Florida posted seven top-10 finishes, including three in the top five.

Prior to arriving at USF, Malloy spent four seasons as an assistant at Florida State where he played a significant role in the rise of the FSU men's program. The Seminoles won their first-ever ACC golf championship in 2008. And after leading at the end of the first round, they finished third in the NCAA Championships in 2010, the best finish in program history.

Malloy, whose wife Danielle and three-year-old daughter Kaylee join him in Oxford, remembers how he and his teammates at the turn of the century helped move Ole Miss golf into a better direction than it had been. The Rebels finished 24th at the NCAA Championships in 1999 and had an 11th-place finish at the NCAA East Regional in 2000.

“We changed the program,” he said. “It was a little bit down in the dumps when we got here. I fell in love with the school. It was the prettiest college campus I’d ever seen. The golf team hadn’t accomplished much for a long period of time. We got to those NCAA Tournaments, and it was a fun time. We made a lot of people take notice.”

That’s what Malloy wants to do with the program now. He wants to compete for championships and win them.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to get back,” he said. “I’m passionate about Ole Miss, and I believe we can win a national championship at Ole Miss. We’re ready to get things rocking and rolling. It’s an exciting time for our program.”

OM Spirit Top Stories