A New Era | K-State Men's Golf
Led by new head coach Grant Robbins and assistant coach Cullen Carstens, the Wildcats' young roster is set to travel to Monterey, California, to open its 2014 fall slate at the St. Mary's Invitational.
"We've got a really good group of kids," said Robbins of his youthful 2014-15 roster that boasts five sophomores, three freshmen and just one senior. "We have a long way to go both physically and mentally, there's no denying that, but we just have to go into the season making sure that we're working hard and trying to get better each and every day, each and every tournament."
The St. Mary's Invitational runs Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 15-16, and is played at Monterey's beautiful Bayonet and Black Horse Golf Course.
"It's a great tournament. Any time you can get out to Monterey and California and play, it's a great experience for the guys," said Robbins. "The field will be challenging. It'll be a lot of teams we don't normally see, a lot of west coast teams, so it will be good to get out there and see how we stack up."
This year's K-State men's golf team will look to three sophomores - Seth Smith, Connor Knabe and Matt Green - to lead the way. With senior Kyle Weldon taking a redshirt this season and planning on returning to competition in 2015-16, Robbins explained it would be up to Smith, Knabe and Green - the most experienced players on his roster - to lead the pack.
"Kyle is obviously our leader; he's a senior and even though he isn't going to play this year, he really has an impact as far as the leadership standpoint," explained Robbins, "but Seth, Matt and Connor are going to be three guys we're really going to lean on this year. Those three are our best players, so those guys are going to need to step up and get better."
Along with Smith, Knabe and Green, Robbins said true freshman Trent Evans and sophomore Hank Simpson should be in the Wildcats' starting lineup on Monday morning.
The most experienced player heading to California next week will be Green. Though the Lenexa, Kansas, native redshirted during the 2013-14 season because of injury, he competed in a team-high-tying 12 events as a freshman in 2012-13. Green recorded two top-five finishes, two top-10 finishes and three top-20 finishes his freshman season and led the Wildcats in numerous statistics.
Following Green, Smith competed in eight tournaments last season, held a 74.72 stroke average and tallied one top-five finish as a freshman. He attained his season-best finish at the Dessert Shootout by tying for eighth place with a 9-under 207 and concluded his freshman season with a 36th-place finish in the Big 12 Championship.
Also coming off of a year of experience is Knabe. The sophomore from Leawood, Kansas, competed in six events as a freshman in 2013-14 and recorded a stroke average of 74.50 with a collegiate career-low of 70 at the Pacific Invitational and the Wyoming Dessert Intercollegiate.
Looking toward the future, Robbins knows there are obstacles to overcome when turning around a program and coaching a young team. However, he's been through it before and is confident K-State men's golf is on the right track.
"This is a building year, there's no question about that," said Robbins. "We've just got to make sure we get the guys buying in and changing the culture. This year is going to be all about setting the foundation of what we expect as coaches from a work ethic standpoint and from a mental standpoint."
Focusing on the process of improving and building his team's confidence, Robbins plans on making this new era of K-State men's golf its best one yet.
"We've got a really good group of guys. They seem to be buying in and working hard," Robbins concluded. "That's all you can ask for as a coach, that they buy in and work hard. We just have to build some confidence. We have to try and build that, and like I said, just set a foundation for the future."
Following the St. Mary's Invitational, the Wildcats will travel to Columbus, Ohio, to play at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational, Sept. 29 and 30. For the complete K-State men's golf schedule, click here.