Knights Hope Study Session Leads to NCAA Championship Success

May 25, 2012

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By John Denton, Knights Insider

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ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Call it a premonition, a stroke of luck or an extremely bold move, but UCF senior golfer Brad Schneider's heads up actions three months ago will assure the Knights of being prepared next week in the NCAA Championship.

Knowing full well that the NCAA Championship would be held at the famed Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., Schneider made sure to set his DVR back in February to record the television coverage of the Northern Trust Open. Schneider figured having that saved footage could come in handy if the 22nd-ranked Knights got back to the NCAA Championship and it could serve as a valuable teaching tool leading up to the event.

Sure enough, UCF rallied last week in Stanford, Calif., to finish fifth in the NCAA Regionals to qualify for the championship. Now, the team is scheduled to visit Schneider's house Friday night to watch the February PGA Tour event that was held at Riviera Country Club and won by Bill Haas, who defeated Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in the second hole of a playoff. UCF's top players, Greg Eason, Jose Joia, Ricardo Gouveia, Kyle Wilshire, Reid Martin and Schneider, will be watching the footage, hoping to learn some of the strategy and subtleties needed to navigate Riviera when the championship begins on Tuesday.

``My whole thinking when I was watching it back in February was that we could be playing there. Having the guys over to watch it I think will be a good way of preparing us,'' said Schneider. ``Watching all of the holes and hearing (NBC analysts) Johnny Miller and Gary Koch analyze what's a good shot or a bad shot, that is really key out there. They have kikuyu grass and it's really sticky, so positioning is important. I remember them talking about how to play certain shots around the greens, so I think it's going to be very helpful for us.''

Needing a top-five finish to qualify for the NCAA Championship, UCF rallied with a two-under, 278 by getting some dazzling play from its entire squad at the regionals. Joia and Gouveia both shot 1-under, 69 in the final round, while Schneider and Eason fired 70s. Joia and Gouveia, sophomores from Portugal, tied for eighth (5-under) and 18th (2-under) respectively, while Schneider and Eason finished tied for 27th (1-over). Wilshire finished 11-over and tied for 64th.

UCF coach Bryce Wallor motivated the Knights by reminding them that they had been one of the nation's best teams all season in final rounds. He knew the team had the talent and depth to summons a special round to get UCF to the NCAA Championship.

``The night going into that final round I told our team that we were tops in the country in final-round scoring, so we know we're a good team in those conditions,'' said Wallor, who has led UCF to three-straight NCAA Regionals. ``We get better and get smarter the more we know about the course. So I just sent them a text message the night before reminding them that we had accomplished that feat all year and it was just about us going out and getting it done.''

UCF did get it done, finishing two strokes ahead of Tennessee to qualify for the NCAA Championship. UCF will be appearing in the event for a fifth time and the first time since 2009. Teams will battle through 54 holes of stroke play and the top eight squads will advance to match play next weekend.

``I just can't wait because I've heard so many great things about Riviera,'' said Eason, a sophomore from England. ``We're all very consistent golfers and we all have the ability to go low if we need to. I don't think there's any limit on what we can do next week.''

And it's just an added perk that the tournament will be played this season at Riviera Country Club, the site of several movie scenes, a star-studded membership and grounds for several PGA majors. The course is also different in that it has bent grass greens and kikuyu grass in the fairways and rough.

Haas played out of that sticky grass behind the 10th green when he won at Riviera in February. The 312-yard 10th hole is considered one of the best short par-4 holes in America. The green can be reached in a drive, but positioning is everything. That's what Mickelson and Bradley learned when their drives were short and to the left weren't in the same spot as Haas, who had driven the ball long and to the right.

It's that kind of information that the Knights hope to pick up when they watch Schneider's replayed footage Friday night. UCF will head to the West Coast on Saturday and will play two practice rounds at different courses, but will take with them the knowledge of Riviera from the TV footage.

``I think the best part of what they will get out of it will be listening to the analysts,'' Wallor said. ``Hearing the analysts say, `This putt breaks this way and no one ever sees it,' will help them when they get out on the course. Those kinds of tidbits will help us out there."