Women's Golf Season in Review
May 7, 2009
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas women’s golf took a step forward in its 30th year of play – a season highlighted by memorable individual and team performances and the opening of a brand new state-of-the-art practice facility. In 2008-2009 the Jayhawks claimed five top-five team finishes, one team title and the program’s best finish ever at the Big 12 Championship.
“This year was a little up and down,” said head coach Erin O’Neil. “However, we finished strong with a top five finish at the Big 12 Championship. Overall we were a young group and we were able to end the season with some valuable experiences.”
The Jayhawks opened the fall season with a sixth-place finish at the Chip-N-Club Invitational in Lincoln, Neb., before returning to Lawrence to host the Marilynn Smith Sunflower Invitational at Alvamar Public Golf Course. Emily Powers and Jennifer Clark finished one-two in the individual standings to lead KU to a fifth-place finish in its only home tournament of the season. The team finished the fall season with three top-10 finishes and a 308.83 per-round scoring average.
The end of the fall season allowed the team to utilize the brand new, state-of-the-art Knapheide Family Practice Facility at Alvamar. It consists of four climate-controlled hitting bays, each outfitted with cutting-edge swing technology. The new facility proved to be a great confidence booster for the team, as a number of Jayhawks saw vast improvements on the course in the spring season.
After opening the spring at the Central District Invitational in Florida, the Jayhawks traveled to Rio Verde, Ariz., to compete in the Duramed Collegiate Classic. The warm desert air didn’t faze the Jayhawks, as all five golfers finished in the top-15 to help KU claim the title by an incredible 24 strokes. The win marked the fifth team title for head coach Erin O’Neil since she arrived at KU in 2004, and was the program’s first tournament victory since 2007. Junior Meghan Gockel shot a career-low 218 at the tournament to claim the individual crown. For her performance, Gockel was recognized as Golf World magazine’s Women’s Player of the Week. A day later the Jayhawks were selected as the Golfweek.com Women’s Team of the Week.
A few weeks later the Jayhawks traveled to Lubbock, Texas, to take part in the 2009 Big 12 Championship. Despite winds upwards of 35 miles per hour, KU was able to put together a strong performance against a very talented field. Kansas shot a 945 over three days to finish in fifth place, marking the best finish at the Championship in program history. Gockel again led the way for the Jayhawks, finishing tied for sixth in the individual standings. The Dallas, Texas, native’s top-10 finish qualified her for the All-Tournament Team, marking just the third time that a KU golfer has received the honor since the conference was formed in 1996.
Off the course the Jayhawks had a remarkable year in the classroom. They led the conference with six Academic All-Big 12 first team selections. Gockel was one of three women’s golfers in the league to achieve a perfect 4.0 GPA. Overall, the women’s golf team had the highest GPA of any Kansas sport in 2009.
Despite a strong performance at the Big 12 Championship to close out the spring season, the Jayhawks were unable to qualify for NCAA Regional play. Still, the 2008-2009 season was a stepping-stone for a young team that had no seniors. The Jayhawks return all nine golfers next season and will look to use that experience to take the program to the next level in 2009-2010.
“I am very excited about next season since we will have everyone returning as well as two great incoming freshmen,” said O’Neil. “We will have a lot of depth which will push everyone to put in the extra effort needed to attain our goals and make us that much stronger as a team.”