Kansas Heads to Big 12 Championship

April 25, 2012

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Competing in one of the toughest conference tournaments in the country, Kansas men’s golf will look to make some noise at the 72-hole Big 12 Championship this weekend beginning with two rounds Friday at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Texas.

Entering the event, the nation’s top-ranked Texas Longhorns are the clear favorite, but they will face some stiff competition, including No. 15 Texas A&M, No. 28 Oklahoma, No. 30 Oklahoma State and No. 32 Baylor, according to Golfstat’s Division I rankings.

“Texas is hands-down the best team in the country,” said Kansas head coach Kit Grove. “From start to finish this year, they’ve really distanced themselves. They have the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the country on the same squad. That’s a pretty good one-two punch. That being said, it’s harder to win a golf tournament than people give it credit for. You have Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas Tech, who was 40th a couple weeks ago when we saw them (currently ranked No. 46), all competing. Basically, we have six teams in the top 40 in the country, which is pretty stacked.”

In addition to the quality competition, the Jayhawks will also be contending with the Bermuda greens at Whispering Pines Golf Club. KU has played in a few tournaments featuring Bermuda greens this spring, but the team is certainly not as familiar with the surface as the southern schools.

“The Texas schools are used to playing and practicing on that every day,” said Grove. “That’s always a little bit of an issue, just dealing with the grains when you’re pitching, chipping and putting. Some of the guys that are more “Northern kids” don’t see it a whole lot, even though we play on it quite a bit in the spring. It’s a little bit different.”

After being held last year at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., the Big 12 Championship will return to Whispering Pines Golf Club for the fourth time and the first time since 2010. Junior Chris Gilbert, who has registered three top-10 finishes in the team’s last four events, as well as fellow junior Alex Gutesha, both competed in the Big 12 Championship the last time it took place in Trinity, Texas.

“It’s nice that they’ve seen the golf course before,” said Grove. “They’ve both matured as players. Obviously, Chris is playing really good golf right now. He just needs to stay patient and not do anything too crazy to force the issue too much. It’s one of those golf courses where you can’t fake it around there. The thing we’re going to have to avoid is posting the big number. It’s a golf course that doesn’t really let up a whole lot. It’s pretty long, and there are a lot of hazards. There are a lot of marsh and wooded areas. It’s a golf course where if you get a little too aggressive too quick, you can make a big number.”

Joining Gilbert and Gutesha will be senior Doug Quinones and freshmen David Auer and Dylan McClure. With the potential for every team to stumble quickly on the challenging golf course, the Jayhawks are looking to have a good showing in the team’s last scheduled event of the season.

“I think it’s a golf course where, if we approach it correctly, we could be very competitive with Missouri, IowaState and KansasState,” said Grove. “I don’t have delusions of grandeur that we’re going to walk in there and kick Texas in the teeth. In 72 holes of championship competition, that’s not going to happen. That’s the reality of the situation, but we saw Texas Tech a couple weeks ago, and they only beat us by two. If we can stay patient and not try to do too much, just try and put solid numbers on the board, we can compete and finish in the middle of the pack. That’s what I’m looking forward to, just a chance to go out and prove a few people wrong.”

Kansas will open its Big 12 Championship with two rounds Friday, starting at 9:30 a.m. The Jayhawks will then play round three Saturday and the final round Sunday morning.

Live results for the Big 12 Championship can be found at www.golfstat.com.