Men’s golf battled through a tough season
- May. 2, 2012
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Although the Kansas Men’s golf season featured inconsistent play, the Jayhawks found a wealth of talent in young players, and gained experience in several elite tournament.
In the pre-season, it was clear the Jayhawks had a talented roster that could compete with ranked Big 12 foes. The challenge was putting that talent together as a team on the course.
The unusually warm spring dealt coach Kit Grove the opportunity for more practice time and two extensive 81-hole qualifiers.
Grove discovered two things early in the season. The team would struggle to put together a well-grounded game on any given day, and young talent in McClure.
The freshman from Justin, Texas, started his season by leading the Jayhawks with a 17th place finish at Louisiana Classics. He followed that performance with more consistent play, often times recovering from rough first rounds.
“I’ll give the young man credit,” Grove said. “He’s a grinder. He’s getting better at making the most of the situation.”
McClure started several rounds bogeying four of the first five holes this season.
Junior Chris Gilbert from Simi Valley, Calif., delivered the best individual performance on the Jayhawks’ biggest stage, The Western Intercollegiate. At two-over-par, Gilbert landed tied for ninth in what is equivalent to a major tournament in the college regular season.
“He played absolutely rock solid,” Grove said after the tournament. “He’s been great from tee to green. Now he’s finally getting a little bit of confidence in the putter. It was a stacked field and he played shot-for-shot with them.”
Gilbert’s top-flight play occurred on a top-flight course in Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, Calif., which was designed by famous architect Allister MacKenzie. Despite the added pressure of the tournament, he focused on what mattered.
“I just worry about thinking how I think on the course, and focusing on the course.” Gilbert said. “The rest will take care of itself. I just try to hit a solid shot every time I stand up there.”
The team’s final tournament before Big 12 play happened on the toughest course.
“It’s like nothing you’re ever going to see.” Grove said. “There’s hole locations you just can’t get it close. You hit some great shots and end up in bad positions, and it such a thinking golf course. That’s where we got killed today as a team. Yesterday we were good at grinding out bogeys, today we were just awful at that.”
Gilbert’s mentality on the course keyed his solid play this season.
“I think the key was being decisive on every shot and knowing, if you didn’t hit your target, where you wanted to miss.” Gilbert said. “I thought if I could limit my double bogies, I could limit my shots and everyone was going to make bogies on this course.”
For the Big 12 championships in Trinity, Texas, the team played on another tough course designed by MacKenzie featuring tough pin placements.”It’s just a difficult golf course,” Grove said. “We aren’t the toughest team mentally, and it’s one of those deals where it can snowball. It’s a very visually intimidating golf course that you have to get off to a good start on every day.”
With Gilbert and McClure returning, along with juniors Paul Harris and Alex Gutesha and freshman David Auer, the Jayhawks will have only one spot open in the starting lineup. Senior Doug Quinones graduates leaving an open leadership role to be filled.
With the talent in place and most of the line-up returning the team will look to improve. The focus in the offseason will be on developing course management to gain that mental toughness Grove would like to see in pressure situations.