Men's golf shows they can compete with the best
The men’s golf team is coming off a second-place finish in their first conference tournament of the 2018-19 season at the Big 12 Match Play Championship (Oct. 12-14), which was hosted at The Clubs at Houston Oaks. This was the first time that the Big 12 had ever put on a match play style tournament, and the Jayhawks took advantage of a style that was familiar to some of their golfers.
“I love match play, it is a totally different animal,” junior Andy Spencer said. “It has a different mindset. I feel like in match play you can play a hole looser just because you’re trying to beat one guy instead of all the rest of the field.”
Coming into the championship the Jayhawks were the fourth seed in the Big 12 and they were one of five teams to be placed into Pool A. There they faced off against TCU and Texas Tech in the first two matches of the weekend, and Kansas was able to come away with two wins against their division foes.
“You know the first match against TCU I thought we were in pretty good shape and then a couple guys got down late and it basically came down to the last hole, last putt,” Head Coach Jamie Bermel said. “Jake Scarrow had about a 12-footer and he was down so if he makes the putt we win the match. So, it was a big putt and it went in so that gave us some momentum going into the second match. I thought we were in control of Texas Tech pretty much the whole day. To start out the first day of the tournament going 2-0 that is a lot of momentum going into the next couple of matches.”
And the Jayhawks carried that momentum as well as any team could into the second day. Following a match where they tied West Virginia to stay undefeated, they moved on to face the lone other school from Pool A that also had yet to lose. Not only was it the number one team at the championship, nor the number one team in the Big 12, but the number one team and reigning NCAA Champions Oklahoma State. The winner between the two would advance as the champion from the Pool A to face off with the Pool B winner for the championship.
It wasn’t going to be an easy task for the Jayhawks, but they were able to come up with a strategy to put pressure on the Cowboys that worked to Kansas’ favor.
“Coach’s plan was to put our strongest, most experienced guys against the younger guys,” senior Charlie Hillier said. “It kind of worked out but for Andy [Spencer] to beat the number one player in the country like he did that was massive for us. I played a freshman, so coaches plan worked out. As the day went on we realized we were closer and closer and then it kind of goes is this really happening. To beat them on hole differential was a pretty special feeling.”
Both Hillier and Spencer dominated the first two days of the championship. The two combined to go 8-0 in their respective matches and were a big reason behind the Jayhawks success to upsetting the number one seeded Cowboys and advancing to face Baylor in the championship round.
“I don’t think anytime you expect to go 4-0, but it was obviously really nice to win all my matches,” Spencer said.
“I hadn’t played match play in a while but just the one on one competitive aspect suits me a lot better than say the stroke play game,” Hillier said. “If you have one bad hole then you just lose the hole and move on to the next and you can get it back. Match play suited my game and the course was suited for my game.”
Despite losing to the Bears in the championship, the Jayhawks got just what they were looking for out of this tournament. Proof that they can compete with anyone in the country.
“It’s good. It gives us a lot of confidence,” Spencer said. “We know we are pretty good, but we just needed to test ourselves against arguably the best conference in the country.”
The Jayhawks will now hope to carry this feeling over into their final tournament of the fall season when they travel to Hawaii to compete in the Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic (Nov. 2-4) which will be played at the Royal Ka’anapali Golf Club.
“We have a good two-week break before we hit there, so I think I will be a lot fresher than in past years,” Hillier said. “The course fits most of our games, it is a little different playing on the Bermuda there, but it should be a good week.”