Kansas Men's Golf Opens Season in Louisiana Monday

March 3, 2012

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Following weeks of competitive practices and an extensive qualifying process, Kansas men’s golf will commence its 2012 spring season Monday at the Louisiana Classics in Lafayette, La.

Senior Doug Quinones, juniors Chris Gilbert, Alex Gutesha and Paul Harris, and freshman Dylan McClure will represent the Jayhawks in an event that will mark the latest start to a season since 1999 when KU opened with the Louisiana Classics on March 8. Kansas head coach Kit Grove hopes the later starting date combined with a warmer winter in Lawrence will allow the team to have a strong performance in the first tournament of the year.

“We’re starting a little bit later than we normally do,” said Grove. “Last year, we hadn’t played a single round going into Wyoming’s event (the Wyoming Desert Classic, Feb. 26-27) to begin the season. We only played nine holes before our second tournament of the season (Louisiana Classics, March 7-8). Every time the snow would melt, we would get hammered with another storm. It wasn’t like we didn’t practice, but it’s hard to replicate scoring yardages, making shots and holing putts in different pressure situations if you’re not on the golf course. This year, the weather’s been great. By no means are we in midseason form on March 1, but we should be so much further ahead of where we were last year.”

Taking advantage of the warmer weather, Grove organized an expanded qualifying system to place the team in pressure situations and determine the top five golfers to compete in Lafayette.

“We’ve tried to make everything as competition-based as we could,” said Grove. “We had two 81-hole qualifiers and a 63-hole qualifier. The winner of each of those qualifiers earned an exemption for this weekend. The last two spots were coach’s picks based mostly on the performances over the whole three qualifiers. It’s amazing that when it all shakes out in the end it’s pretty much the same five we had in the fall.”

Kansas will face some stiff competition in its opening tournament. The 15-team field includes No. 16 LSU and No. 20 Kent State as well as Illinois, Memphis and SMU, which are all receiving votes in the latest GCAA coaches’ poll released on March 1.

“The field is really, really strong, which is a good thing,” said Grove. “Our national ranking isn’t anywhere close to what we want it to be right now. We play a really, really strong schedule this spring, which is going to give us the opportunity to go out, compete and execute. We have a chance to move in the right direction really quickly.”

Gilbert led the team in the fall with a 72.79 scoring average, while Gutesha posted the best score of any Jayhawk at two of the team’s five tournaments and finished 2011 with an average round of 73.57. Quinones is also coming off a strong fall where he shot the team’s best score at The Invitational at Kiawah and ended with the KU’s third-best average of 74.36. One of the keys to Kansas’ success in the spring will be more consistent performances from the No. 4 and 5 golfers at each event. McClure finished the first semester of his freshman year with an average of 75.55. Harris, who came to KU after two years at CentralAlabamaCommunity College, had a 76.07.

“Dylan’s probably made the most progress since the fall,” said Grove. “His swing is much more of a natural one-piece motion and his club is much more on plane. He’s getting the golf club in a much better position because of that. He’s probably been day-in and day-out the most consistent. Paul also played much better this last qualifier. Hopefully, he’s getting back to where he’s shooting the scores that we recruited him for. He was the No. 1 junior college player in the country last year. We expect a lot out of him.”

The Louisiana Classics marks the first of seven tournaments over the next nine weeks for the Jayhawks, which will end with the Big 12 Championship April 27-29 in Trinity, Texas. Kansas’ second tournament of the season will be the Border Olympics March 16-17 in Laredo, Texas.