UCLA men’s golf players, new head coach look toward future of program
UCLA men’s golf coach Armen Kirakossian poses at the Gifford Practice Complex on campus. Kirakossian, who was hired earlier this month, said he’s hoping to create the complete student-athlete experience for the Bruins. (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics/Jesus Ramirez)
By Lauryn Wang
June 30, 2022 2:40 p.m.
Sometimes, you have to let fate take its course.
At least that’s what this past month has felt like for UCLA men’s golf coach Armen Kirakossian, who was recently named as former coach Derek Freeman’s successor following the 2021-2022 season. The Bruins’ new coach said every experience leading up to his appointment at UCLA has prepared him for this moment.
“It felt like it was all meant to be,” Kirakossian said. “Every place that I’ve been to prior has led me to be the perfect kind of fit for what this job requires right now.”
All of Kirakossian’s past coaching jobs have been west of the Mississippi – from his alma mater, the University of Texas–Pan American, to Pepperdine to Arizona State. Now, he will return to California to lead the blue and gold.
While Kirakossian may be confident in his destiny now, he said he initially accepted the head coach position at Texas Pan American with the intention of returning to professional competition. However, he said he discovered a calling – and potential career – in coaching and didn’t look back.
“Within the first few months, I’m like, ‘Wow, this is way better for me. This just fits my personality (and) I love this. I could see myself doing this for a long time,’” Kirakossian said. “I just honestly never had the desire to go back and play competitively again after that.”
He added that coaching still provides him with a competitive atmosphere, especially within the Bruins’ program. Kirakossian said he was attracted to UCLA specifically because of the championship-level reputation.
“Everything about this place just screamed elite,” Kirakossian said. “I love high expectations. I love high standards. I love the fact that you know people expect the programs to be amazing here and to win championships.”
Two of Kirakossian’s future players, freshman Pablo Ereño Perez and redshirt sophomore Alvaro Muller, also said they have high expectations for the program.
Ereño Perez emphasized a top-down effect and said the change in leadership will hopefully mark a shift in the Bruins’ fortunes.
“This year hasn’t been good,” Ereño Perez said. “Not only the results, but the feeling of teamwork hasn’t been good either. We didn’t have a lot of team practices, a lot of guys on the team didn’t practice at all and it was hard to play well as a team when the team was not all in to put in the work. Next year with the new coach, it’s going to change a lot.”
Ereño Perez and Muller said they have both talked to a pair of fellow Spanish golfers on Arizona State’s team about Kirakossian, and the Sun Devil golfers vouched for the coach’s hard-working mentality.
“We have two Spanish friends at Arizona State who only have good things to say about our new coach, so we’re very excited,” Muller said. “He’s got a good plan for the future, and we’re all excited to get back and get to work next year.”
Muller said he’s also anticipating how Kirakossian will round out the complete student-athlete experience as he builds up his program. The redshirt sophomore said it starts with showing up for the team, but goes beyond that as well.
“This year, even though we did have practice, our coach wasn’t as involved as maybe he should be in a really good program,” Muller said. “I just want to see what a real program looks like, having structured team practice every single day and … just having a better team chemistry working towards a common goal.”
For now, Ereño Perez said he has a few ideas for team-building.
“I think it’s important to have off-the-course team activities like going bowling or hiking with the team so we can make a better team bond,” Ereño Perez said. “That would be the complete collegiate experience.”
Maybe Kirakossian’s next destiny lies not on a golf course, but at a bowling alley.