No. 41 Kansas Sets Eyes on Big 12 Championship
LAWRENCE, Kan. – In hopes to continue its already historic season, the Kansas men’s golf team will travel to Trinity, Texas and compete in the Big 12 Championship, April 29 – May 1. This marks the seventh year that the conference championship will be held in Trinity, where this year’s three-day, four-round event will take place at Whispering Pines Golf Club.
With four tournament victories, two individual titles and nine eight top-three finishes in 2015-16, the No. 41 Jayhawks will enter the 10-team field which features three teams ranked in the top-25, including the No. 1 Texas, No. 6 Oklahoma State and No. 19 Oklahoma according to Golfweek.com.
“We’re not going down there for second-place,” Kansas head coach Jamie Bermel said. “I like the way we’re playing and I like the guys on the team. We’re experienced and I think this course fits us pretty well.”
In the Big 12 Conference’s 19-year history, the Jayhawks have won the conference championship once, that coming in 1999 under head coach Ross Randall. During that same 19-year run, KU has had nine golfers earn all-tournament honors by finishing in the top-10 with the last being Chris Gilbert in 2013.
Bermel has remained with the same five Jayhawks to represent Kansas for much of the season, and he has chosen to do so at the Big 12 Championship as well. The five Jayhawks donning the Crimson and Blue at the 7,473-yard, par-72 course will be seniors Ben Welle and Connor Peck, junior Chase Hanna, sophomore Daniel Hudson and sophomore Charlie Hillier.
For Welle, this will be the third time he competes at the Big 12 Championship, where he has improved his four-round total each year, including last season when he led the Jayhawks in scoring (297, +17) at Whispering Pines. Welle enters this weekend, with two individual titles already under belt this season, as the senior also leads Kansas in six different statistical categories.
“I’m really excited for this week,” Welle said. “It’s the best team we’ve had in a long time and we haven’t really gone there with a competing team before, so I’m really excited.”
As Welle’s senior counterpart, Peck has been the team’s most consistent player throughout the season and it shows, leading the team in percentage of rounds counted (93.33) and top-20 finishes (20). He heads into the Big 12 Championship averaging 70.00 strokes in his past nine rounds of play.
By the time Hanna is finished with this weekend, he will have competed in all 35 events that KU has participated in since he arrived in Lawrence, making him one of the most experienced players on the course. His 72.64 scoring average on the year is the best season average of his Kansas career.
Hudson is coming off one his best performances of his career at the Hawkeye Invitational (April 16-17), where he tied for fourth with a 211 (-5). He enters this weekend leading the Jayhawks in recorded rounds of even par (7) and is tied for second on the team with three top-three finishes on the season.
Hillier has been Kansas’ most consistent player since the beginning of the spring season, averaging 70.93 strokes per round during the team’s five spring tournaments, while walking off the course under par in all of those event as well. The freshman’s season-long tendency to begin tournaments on a strong foot is apparent, averaging 70.30 strokes in the opening rounds.
“We just need to keep our head down and worry about what we can control, and what we’re doing, not what anybody else. I think if we do that, we’ll be fine,” Bermel said.
The Jayhawks are scheduled to tee-off at 8:22 a.m. CT on the 10th tee, where they will be paired with fifth-seed Texas Tech in the first two rounds played April 29. The four-round championship will play 18 holes Saturday, April 30, and conclude with 18 holes Sunday, May 1. For live stats for the Big 12 Championship are available at Golfstat.com.
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