KU's Gilbert To Tee Off In NCAA Regional Thursday
May 17, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Chris Gilbert has been the leader of the Kansas golf team all season, but when he tees it up at the NCAA Regional this week, he won’t have a team to lead.
Gilbert qualified for the Arizona Regional as an individual and will be competing in a field of 14 teams and five individuals, who will be vying for spots in the NCAA Championship. He will head to Tucson, Ariz. with only KU head coach Kit Grove in tow.
The top five teams and the low individual not on one of those teams qualify for the finals, which will take place in Stillwater, Okla., May 31-June 5. There are six regional sites.
“Without teammates it will be different, but I always try to keep the same mindset,” Gilbert said. “I need to focus on myself for the team to do well, so it is basically the same mindset.”
The sophomore paced the Jayhawks this season with a 73.57 scoring average and was KU’s first or second finisher in 11 of 12 events, leading the team five times.
Gilbert will play a practice round on the Omni Tucson National Golf Resort course in Arizona Wednesday before the three-day, 54-hole tournament begins Thursday. Gilbert has some local knowledge of the course as Kansas played in the National Invitational there in mid-March.
“When I saw the regional sites, I was hoping to go to this one because I have played it and I played it in a lot tougher conditions this winter,” Gilbert said. “When I found out, I went straight back to my yardage book I kept from that tournament and went through the types of shots I want to hit and I have been focusing my practice on those shots. I have to use having played there as an advantage.”
While KU finished 10th out of 15 teams in the event March 21-22, Gilbert topped the Jayhawks with a 26th-place finish, as he shot 75-71-77—223. His 26th-place finish was ironically his worst finish of the year. Gilbert’s season included six top-15 finishes and 11 top-25 finishes in 12 events.
Yet Gilbert is ready to return to the course. Spending his last two years of high school in Simi Valley, Calif. he spent a lot of time playing junior golf in the desert.
“I like the course,” he said. “In high school I played a lot of courses in the desert, so I feel comfortable with them. I kind of feel at home playing in the desert because I played in Palm Springs, Calif. a lot as a junior.”
Gilbert says the course sets up well for him. He considers his driving and iron play the main strengths of his game and he says the course calls for those skills to be successful.
“You need good distance control with your short irons,” Gilbert said of the course. “It is pretty strategic off the tees because there are a lot of well-placed bunkers… Staying out of trouble is what I am good at right now.”
With finals week at Kansas this week, Gilbert was fortunate with his schedule. He took two finals online a little early and then had tests Monday and Tuesday morning before preparing to board a plane for warmer weather Tuesday afternoon.
“When it was cold outside I was able to focus on school,” Gilbert said. “With finals over, I can sharpen my game and get ready to play.”
Teams in the field include Texas A&M, San Diego State, Texas Tech, California, Liberty, Washington, Pepperdine, Oregon State, Purdue, UC Davis, Arizona, Texas-Arlington, Loyola, Md. and Army. Individuals include BYU’s Zac Blair, UAB’s Jason Shufflebotham, Louisiana-Monroe’s Gustaf Kocken and Missouri State’s Will Hogan in addition to Gilbert.
Other regional tournaments are taking place in Erie, Colo.; San Diego, Calif.; Zionsville, Ind.; Radford, Va.; and Ocala, Fla.
Live scoring will be available on the internet at www.golfstat.com.