By Mark Janssen
Kansas State golf coach Tim Norris says, "The ball has no idea how old you are."
With that in mind, he has no concerns that a pair of freshmen are leading the Wildcats through the fall season.
The rookies are Thomas Birdsey of Trophy Club, Texas, and Jack Watson of Lincolnshire, Ill.
Birdsey has a 73.3 average through 15 rounds and recently came within one stroke of the Colbert Hills Golf Course record with a 65.
Watson has an average of 74.3 and is coming off a sixth-place performance with rounds of 70, 70 and 71 at the Country Club of Louisiana.
"They've stepped in and have been very competitive," Norris said. "Those two have done the best job to not force the issue and have not given in to taking low percentage shots. They've taken a realistic approach to the game in accepting bogies at times. They haven't followed a bad shot with a bad decision which is the recipe for a high score."
Jason Schulte has a six-round average of 74.6, followed by David Klaudt at 75.4, Ben Juffer 75.6, Kyle Smell 75.6, Chase Chamberlin 76.0, Curtis Yonke, 76.3, Ross Geubelle 78.3 and Tyler Norris 82.8 to round out the 2010-11 men's golf team.
"In the fall you'd like to think that everybody would be close to the top of their game coming off a summer of play, but that hasn't been the case," said Norris. "We've struggled to post four good scores in the same round."
In K-State's last event in Louisiana, the 'Cats were 13th out of a 14-team field after the first round, but responded with a team total of 1-under for the final 36 holes.
"The secret of golf is having four guys playing well at the same time. We had that in the final two rounds," said Norris. "Thomas and Jack have been pretty consistent, but those third and fourth guys are the difference-makers in a tournament. Every team has good players at the top, but those last couple scores make the difference."
The Wildcats are trying to fill the void of three seniors who led the team last year in Mitchell Gregson, Joe Ida and Joe Kinney.
The leading returnees from that team that placed fifth at the Big 12 Championships are Yonke (74.3) and Schulte (76.3).
But as Norris says, that was last year: "I told the fellows that their bag says 'K-State' on the side. It says nothing about the success of last year. This team has to make its own identity."
To date, K-State has placed second in its own invitational, sixth at the Kansas Invitational, ninth in the David Toms event, 11th at the Firestone Invitational and 15th at the Wolf Run Intercollegiate.
K-State will conclude its fall season on Nov. 1-2-3 at the Pacific Invitational in Stockton, Calif.
K-STATE'S FALL ROSTER
Thomas Birdsey, Fr., Trophy Club, Texas
Chase Chamberlin, Soph., Lawrence, Kan.
Ross Geubelle, Sr., Lakin, Kan.
Ben Juffer, Soph., W. Des Moines, Iowa
David Klaudt, Fr., Dallas, Texas
Tyler Norris, Fr., Manhattan, Kan.
Jason Schulte, Sr., Mission Hills, Kan.
Kyle Smell, Jr., Overland Park, Kan.
Jack Watson, Fr., Lincolnshire, Ill.
Curtis Yonke, Soph., Overland Park, Kan.