Three top-ranked recruits will join UCLA men’s golf in the fall.
Junior Golf Scoreboard’s No. 44 recruit Tony Hendricks, No. 75 recruit Mason Greene and No. 79 recruit Chaz Aurilia will join a Bruin team that did not earn a NCAA championship berth this season. However, coach Derek Freeman said he looked at more than just skills when he recruited this year’s freshman class.
“(UCLA) isn’t an easy place to be successful, but yet we expect (incoming freshmen) to give their very best,” Freeman said. “We have to try to identify that in the recruiting process – who’s going to work hard, who’s going to do the right thing, who’s going to represent the university in the best possible way.”
Hendricks and Aurilia grew up competing in Arizona and both earned All-State honors multiple times in high school.
Hendricks finished second in the 2017 Arizona State Championship and third in 2018. He was a member of the Junior America’s Cup Team twice, picked up seven wins with the Junior Golf Association of America and earned JGAA Sportsman of the Year honors in 2017.
“Both (Aurilia) and (Hendricks) have had great success as junior players in Arizona – and not only in Arizona, but on the national team as well,” said Freeman. “They’ve won golf tournaments and been successful wherever they’ve played.”
Greene won the 2017 Toyota Tour Cup and tied for first at the 2018 American Junior Golf Association’s Las Vegas Junior at Reflection Bay. The Tustin, California, native was named to the AJGA Transamerica Scholastic Honor Roll in each of the last three years.
Freeman said academics is a big part of what he looked at during the recruiting process.
“One of the toughest things we have to do is trying to evaluate who can handle the academic side of what we do, because I don’t know that there’s another sport that misses as many days as the golf team,” Freeman said.
The three new Bruins have proven themselves at the youth level with victories all over the country, but they will have to transition to both the academic and athletic aspects of UCLA.
Freeman said the recruits’ talent will transfer to the collegiate level under his coaching staff’s guidance.
“We know it’s a tough transition coming to college, but yet it’s the same game,” Freeman said. “The golf ball doesn’t know whether you’re in college or you’re in high school, so we just try to make sure that (the incoming players are) comfortable, they understand what their roles are and teach them how to practice a little bit differently.”
UCLA will lose four seniors – including Cole Madey, who earned Pac-12 honors in each of his four seasons with the Bruins. Freeman said he expects the incoming players to step up immediately to fill the holes left by the graduating seniors.
“I expect these guys to be really really sharp, and come in here and compete right off the bat,” Freeman said. “I think they’ll have great success, I think they’ll help this golf team move forward with what we’re trying to do.”