His path to USF spanned nearly 12,000 miles, one U.S. territory, three countries and three states, but after all the travel, junior men’s golfer Ryoto Furuya finally calls USF home.
He was born in Guam and split his childhood living in both Japan and the Philippines, which is where his passion for golf began at a young age.
“I started playing golf when I was four years old,” Furuya said. “I was just out there hitting the ball as hard as I could. It was my dad who showed me the finer points of the game.”
Furuya had plenty of opportunities to practice golf when he was younger — his home in the Philippines was just 10 minutes away from a country club.
Hoping to take his golf game to the next level, Furuya decided to come to the U.S. where he could receive more formal instruction.
He enrolled at the Saddlebrook Golf Academy in Wesley Chapel. The golf academy is part of Saddlebrook Preparatory School, which is a multicultural learning environment where students study in preparation for college and train intensively in either golf or tennis.
Furuya had success early at Saddlebrook. He won the school’s Golfer of the Year award back-to-back seasons as a freshman and sophomore.
“Saddlebrook Academy gave me the confidence to feel like I could play at the next level,” Furuya said.
After his second season at Saddlebrook, Furuya moved to Atlanta, Georgia with his golf coach. Because of transfer rules, Furuya decided to finish high school online so he could focus on rigorous golf training.
“I played in the American Junior Golf Association and that really got me prepared for college golf,” Furuya said. “It made me realize the level I needed to achieve to compete collegiately.”
Finishing atop the leaderboard and placing well in the many tournaments in the AJGA, Furuya caught the eyes of many collegiate recruiters.
At the recommendation of his club fitter, Furuya took his skills to the University of Iowa on a partial scholarship — this would be his third home in the U.S.
Furuya spent his first two seasons playing for the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. Furuya’s best finish for the Hawkeyes was tied for 11th at the Hawkeye Invitational.
Furuya didn’t find the consistency he was hoping for at the University of Iowa.
“The climate conditions didn’t allow for daily practice,” he said. “I wasn’t able to practice everyday and perform the way I wanted to. I wasn’t able to play golf up to my standards.”
After two seasons with the Hawkeyes, Furuya decided a transfer was in his future.
Coach Steven Bradley was excited to add the transfer to his roster.
“I knew I was getting a good player,” Bradley said. “His best golf is ahead of him. He [Furuya] has played and travelled around the world. He is really running with his new fresh start.”
Furuya’s trek around the world has brought him to USF and Bradley has seen the growth of the globetrotter in just a few months in Tampa. In addition to his golfing abilities, Bradley expects Furuya to step up as a leader this season.
“[Furuya] is very mature,” Bradley said. “The most impressive part of his game is his work ethic. I expect him to be a leader. He has really helped the young kids on this team and has really helped Kyle’s [Flexsenhar] game.”
The Bulls graduated four seniors from last year’s squad. Claudio Correa, Cristian DiMarco, Jimmy Jones and Priyanshu Singh combined for 17 top-10 finishes last spring with a combined 138 rounds.
The departure of Correa, DiMarco, Jones and Singh has not only left a void to be filled on the course, but a leadership vacancy that Furuya is eager to fill.
“I enjoy giving these young guys advice and how to deal with the ups and downs of college life just starting out,” he said.
Furuya has played more than four times the amount of college golf as any other player on the team other than junior Kyle Flexsenhar. Furuya’s 36 rounds of play before this season was as a member of the University of Iowa men’s golfa team.
“I give the younger guys advice based on my college experience,” he said. “I know I am new at USF but I am familiar with the whole experience. The guys can come to me with questions about life, and golf.”