Kansas Set for Prairie Dunes and Big 12 Championship
April 19, 2013
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas enters the 2013 Big 12 Men’s Golf Championship with nowhere to go but up, but a week removed from a tournament win there’s more substance to the teams’ hopes as the squad faces its stiffest challenge yet at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., April 22-24.
The Jayhawks finished the 2012 Big 12 Championship in last place, but a team win at the Hawkeye Invitational, including a share of top-individual honors by senior Chris Gilbert, capped a spring that saw KU finish its last four tournaments in the top half of each field while finding its competitive identity. Kansas has developed a consistent, three-man core of Gilbert, Alex Gutesha and Stan Gautier under first-year head coach Jamie Bermel and will match abilities with one of the toughest fields in the country on an extremely difficult golf course, starting with 36 holes Monday.
Six of the Big 12’s nine competing schools are ranked among the top-50 in the most recent Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, including No. 3 Texas, No. 6 TCU and No. 14 Oklahoma State. Kansas enters the 72-hole tournament as the eight seed and will tee off with (7)Iowa State and (9)Kansas State on the 10th tee at 9 a.m. Monday. Play will continue on the par-70, 6,759-yard course with single rounds of 18 holes on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It’s a great field and a tall order,” Bermel said. “I think most importantly on a great golf course, (our guys are) going to have to manage their ball, be patient out there. There are not a lot of birdie opportunities. We’ve got a big task at hand.”
Kansas is starting to show its potential under Bermel, who made NCAA Regional appearances commonplace at Colorado State and hasn’t shied away from the tough task of rebuilding the program at Kansas. The Jayhawks’ overall scoring average has improved by nearly 10 strokes from a year ago and the team is riding the momentum of its first title since fall 2010.
“I think it validates a lot of things,” Bermel said of the win. “It validates what we’ve been saying from day one – hard work, dedication, paying attention to little things. I’m happy for (the team, especially the seniors). I know they haven’t had a lot of success over their careers, but to come in here and win was very exciting for the guys. That part of it was really rewarding as a coach. From day one we’ve said, ‘we can compete, we can compete,’ we just really haven’t on a weekly basis, but we did up there.”
KU is sticking to its winning lineup after using a different combination in each of its five spring tournaments. The Jayhawks will send their top-three scorers to Hutchinson – Gilbert (71.56), Gautier (73.50) and Gutesha (73.66) – along with senior Paul Harris (74.83) and junior Ryley Haas (76.05), a transfer from Hutchinson Community College. Gilbert and Gutesha are the only holdovers from last year’s Big 12 Championship in Texas, and also the only two to have played in the last tournament at Prairie Dunes as sophomores in 2010.
“We definitely want to go out with a much better finish,” Gilbert, who ranks among the nation’s top-30 in scoring average, said. “The timing of this tournament is perfect, having won the previous tournament right before. It’s got our confidence up and all five guys believe. We’ve finally got all five guys contributing and playing well. We’re just excited to finish on a good note.”
Gilbert claimed the first two individual wins of his collegiate career this season and has finished in the top-20 in eight of the team’s 10 events. He’s the most likely Jayhawk to challenge for individual medalist honors in a field that includes Golfweek/Sagarin top-50 golfers (3)Brandon Stone (Texas), (4)Julien Brun (TCU), (12)Scott Fernandez (Iowa State), (20)Cody Gribble (Texas), (36)Finley Ewing IV (Texas Tech), (37)Jordan Niebrugge (Oklahoma State) and (49)Talor Gooch (Oklahoma State).
“It’s going to be great competition,” Bermel said. “This is why kids come to the Big 12, to see this competition and see how they measure up against the best of the best.”
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