🏌️ Paced by Hillier, Jayhawks in 4th at NCAA Championships
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Kansas Men’s Golf team had a strong opening day at the NCAA Championships at Grayhawk Golf Club on Friday, shooting a team score of 286 (+6). Kansas is tied with Arizona for fourth place after the opening day, four shots behind the leader, Vanderbilt.
The 286 is a program record for lowest team round at the NCAA Championships. Kansas was led by senior Harry Hillier, who fired a 2-under 68 – establishing a new school record for lowest round by an individual at the NCAA Championships.
Hillier is tied for first after the opening round with Brendan Valdes from Auburn. Five others are one shot back of Hillier and Valdes.
In the program’s 13th Championship appearance, the Jayhawks find themselves inside the top five, heading into Saturday’s second round.
“I thought we got off to a good start,” Coach Jamie Bermel said. “Callum (Bruce) was slow out of the gate, but finished well. Harry had a really good round. Six-over is a decent score out there. There’s a lot of golf left out there. You can’t win it on the first day, but you can shoot yourself in the foot. I thought we were pretty solid.”
Hillier started with a bang, pouring in birdies at each of the first two holes. He shot a 4-under, 31, on the front nine with six birdies and two bogeys. He finished the front nine with birdies at seven, eight and nine.
“I got off to a hot start; stuffed it on the first, had a good putt on the second and got the momentum rolling,” Hillier said. “The course is tough. You have to keep it in play. You have to hit it on the right side of the hole…I ran into a little trouble in the desert; bogey, birdie, bogey, birdie, but it was a good grind out there. The guys did well, so we’ll come back tomorrow and do it again.”
Alongside Hillier, the senior Bruce fired a 1-over 71, while sophomore Luke Kluver shot a 73. Senior Ben Sigel shot a 74, while sophomore William Duquette posted a 5-over 75. Bruce is tied for 16th, while Kluver is tied for 42nd. Sigel is tied for 62nd, and Duquette is tied for 101st. The event has a field of 156 golfers.
Bruce recovered nicely from a start that saw him post three bogeys on the first four holes. But he picked up a birdie at the par-three fifth and then birdied the other par three on the front – No. 8 – to get back to 1-over. He then picked up back-to-back birdies at 11 and 12, but bogeyed 15 and 18.
After a 38 on the front, Kluver had a strong back nine, shooting an even par 35. He had birdies on the back at 10 and 12. Sigel had two birdies on his card on the front nine and then had a stellar up-and-down from the bunker on the 18 to save par and keep the Jayhawks at six-over as a squad.
Hillier’s score also certainly helped the Jayhawks put together a six-over round as a team in the first round. Hillier’s 68 was the lowest ever by a Jayhawk in the NCAA Championships, as the previous low belonged to Chris Thompson (1998, Rd. 2) and Brad Bruno (1993, Rd. 4), who both posted 69s.
“I didn’t see much of it, I was with Luke, but every time I looked at my phone, he made another birdie,” Bermel said. “It’s a great round to start the tournament up. He has that horsepower. I’m not surprised one bit by that round.”
The Jayhawks will tee off beginning at 1:52 p.m., CT on Saturday and will be grouped again with Arizona and Oregon. Live stats will be provided through Golfstat.