2011 Spring Preview

Feb. 18, 2011


If the final three tournaments of the fall season are any indication of Kansas’ potential, head golf coach Kit Grove has plenty to be excited about this spring. The Jayhawks took third at the Colorado Invitational, second at the Bill Ross Intercollegiate, and won the Herb Wimberly Intercollegiate which included a variety of highlights. The victory was Kansas’ first since 2007. Sophomores Chris Gilbert and Alex Gutesha, and senior Nate Barbee all recorded scores in the 60s on the final day and all three finished in the top 10 for the tournament. Last fall’s strong finish should make the spring season all the more interesting, according to Grove.

“Coming off of our finish last fall, we’re pretty excited to get the ball rolling this spring,” Grove said. “I know here in Kansas, we haven’t had the greatest practice days in terms of weather. Even though the course is open, it’s not really playable. You couldn’t go out and play 18 holes. We’re trying to get the guys out there and hit shots on the golf course right now. Guys have been able to hit balls and keep up their game from a golf swing standpoint, but it’s different actually having to get out there and hit shots a certain yardage and having to chip and putt. You never know quite what to expect coming out of the gate, sometimes that’s a good thing because your expectations aren’t very high. After coming off our very strong finish last fall, we had the win and the guys got a taste of what that feels like. I know we’re excited to get out there and see what we can do this spring.”

Inexperience and youth were somewhat of a concern going into the fall season as four freshmen and a junior college transfer joined the team. Although Grove admits the team is still relatively young, he believes the talent is there and believes that the team’s victory last fall gives the players a glimpse of how good they can be.

“Nate and Jeff (Bell) are a little bit older from a playing standpoint,” Grove said. “We’re pretty young and even an older guy like Doug (Quinones), he was a JUCO transfer so last season was his first semester. Alex and Chris are right now in the lineup and they’re playing well as sophomores. Until you do it, potential is just stuff you haven’t done yet. Now that they’ve seen that they can go out and compete, hopefully they have a little more self-belief and realize that they can compete with the best and aren’t complacent and aren’t satisfied with just getting a little bit better, let’s go out there and try and win.”

The Jayhawks open their spring season at the Wyoming Desert Classic in Palm Desert, Calif. on February 26, the start of a difficult schedule which Grove believes is tougher than last fall’s.

“This spring, we are playing a little stronger schedule top to bottom,” Grove said. “Obviously our goal is to get to regionals. Once we get to regionals, our goal is to get to nationals. If the guys continue to play the way they are and the way they’re capable, I’m sure that our national ranking will take care of itself.”

The biggest key to the team’s success this season is having all five guys competing in tournaments contribute something, according to Grove.

“The tough thing the last couple of years was it seemed like we had one or two guys who didn’t really help,” Grove said. “If they did, it was their 78 counting instead of somebody else’s 78. Now we’ve got guys who are contributing more, Jeff Bell for example was playing in Colorado and ended up getting 10th in the tournament and was our low, stuff like that helps us. Nate is still our guy. Week in and week out I think he’s our leader and probably our best player. But all these guys can contribute now and they’re all capable of shooting good scores. It’s getting to the point where they can pick up for other guys who are struggling. That’s not what we’ve had, it always seemed like we always had two or three higher numbers that we had to count and that’s just killed us the last couple of years. Now, especially the last few tournaments, we’ve been able to eliminate that and throw 73s,74s, and 75s, out there. That’s the whole key to college golf, just eliminating those high numbers because that’s what kills you over a three round tournament.”

2011 Spring Schedule

February 26-27 Wyoming Desert Classic Palm Desert, Calif.

March 7-8 Louisiana Classic Lafayette, La.

March 21-22 2011 National Invitational Tournament Tucson, Ariz.

March 25-26 Border Olympics Laredo, Texas

April 4-5 Cowboy Classic Scottsdale, Ariz.

April 16-17 Hawkeye Invitational Iowa City, Iowa

April 25-27 Big 12 Championship Hutchinson, Kan.

May 18-21 NCAA Regionals TBA

May 30-June 5 NCAA Finals Stillwater, Okla.