Competition Heating up for K-State Golf Team

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Figuring out the No. 4 and No. 5 positions in the scoring lineup is becoming quite a headache for Kansas State head coach Tim Norris, but it’s one migraine the 11th-year skipper doesn’t mind.

"There's going to be a lot of competition this spring to see who is playing in that four or five position, and that's a good thing," Norris said. "I would hate to have the lineup set this week. Competition is very healthy."

Daniel Wood and Kyle Yonke earned the final two scoring spots behind regulars Mitchell Gregson, Joe Ida and Robert Streb as the team heads to the Fresno Lexus Classic, March 10-11 at Fort Washington Country Club in Fresno, Calif.

The event, K-State’s second of the spring schedule, begins at 8 a.m. (PT) on Monday with 36 holes and concludes on Tuesday with the final 18.

Wood, a freshman from Leander, Texas, seems to have played his way into the lineup after tying with Streb and Yonke for the team’s third best 54-hole tally at last week’s Braveheart Classic.

Yonke, a senior from Lubbock, Texas, returned to the Wildcat rotation for the Braveheart Classic after failing to qualify for the final four events of the fall and turned in the second-lowest round (74) while contributing all three of his scores to the team total.

While the competition on the course heats up and the Wildcats face arguably the toughest and largest field so far this year, the competition for the last two positions has been just as fierce.

In this week’s qualifying rounds, Kyle Smell was supplanted from the travel roster for the first time this season and Ross Guebelle, who has yet to make an appearance in the spring, continues to make a strong case with his game.

In Fresno, the Wildcats will see another field laden with teams from the NCAA West Region but K-State will also get its first glimpse at Big 12 South foe Texas. The Wildcats are 13-3-1 against the field, having previously lost to Long Beach State, Loyola Marymount and TCU.

"It's a good field, of course the home team (Fresno State) has always got somewhat of an advantage,” Norris said. “The Texas Longhorns will be there, we'll see TCU again, Cal-Berkley has a fine squad, and Oregon. There's a lot of good college golfers and if you get a couple guys to play hot, play a little bit over their heads, overachieve a little bit, it doesn't take long before the rankings go out the window. Hopefully our guys can overachieve a little bit and come out with a good finish."

The trip marks a homecoming for Norris, a Fresno native and two-time All-American at Fresno State before playing professionally with the PGA. He thinks his team will see lower scores on the more forgiving Fort Washington Country Club Golf Course and with better weather conditions expected than at the Braveheart Classic.

"I think we're well on our way this spring. I know we're much on ahead of last spring even with the bad weather," Norris said. "Confidence-wise, with what we've accomplished in the fall, I think when we show up at a tournament, we feel like we can compete. I know the golf course is going to be a little more forgiving and we're anxious to get out there and see how we stack up."

K-State’s Projected Lineup
1 - Mitchell Gregson - So. - 73.19 - Team leader with three top-10 finishes this season
2 - Joe Ida - So. - 73.52 - One of two Wildcats with a stroke average under 74
3 - Robert Streb - Jr. - 74.24 - Hasn’t moved from the K-State scoring lineup this season
4 - Daniel Wood - Fr. - 76.33 - Earned lineup spot with strong showing at Braveheart
5 - Kyle Yonke - Sr. - 76.78 - Making second-consecutive appearance in scoring lineup

A Glance at the Field
Kansas State is taking another trip to the West and will compete against another field loaded with teams from the NCAA West Region. Of the 19 teams in this year’s Fresno Lexus Classic, the largest field K-State has been a part of this season, 16 teams compete in the Western Region - one in Division II - and three compete in the Central Region. Seven different conferences will be represented including the America Sky Conference, Big 12, Big West, Mountain West, Pac-10, West Coast, and WAC. K-State is 13-3-1 against the field after teeing it up with 12 of the teams in previous competitions this season.

Fort Washington Country Club
Opened in 1923 as a 9-hole course with dirt fairways and sand greens, the course at Fort Washington Country Club has come along way. The course, which derives its name from the historic Fort Washington that protected early settlers, was redesigned in 1956 by Robert Baldock. The course features narrow, tree-lined fairways that make accuracy even more important. "It's a hilly golf course with a lot of tall eucalyptus trees," K-State head coach Tim Norris said. "It's similar to the layout that we played last year at Fresno with the tall trees. This course has very hilly, rolling terrain and some blind shots. I know our guys will really, really enjoy this golf course - it's a lot of fun to play. There will be some good scores. The course has some birdie holes on it, it's not overly long. They'll have to play smart, choose when to take a chance and when to play conservative. That's going to be a big key to playing the golf course, especially when hitting off the tee and putting yourself in a position to score."

Last Time Out

Mitchell Gregson shot an 8-over 224 for the third top-10 finish of his sophomore campaign and the Kansas State Wildcats finished the Braveheart Classic in fifth place on Tuesday. K-State carded the second-lowest team score in the second round at Oak Valley Golf Club after resuming the final three holes from suspended play on Monday, but closed with a 307 (+19) over the final 18 and finished the tournament 18 strokes behind Cal Poly, 311-301-288900 (+36). Kansas State’s team score of 314-297-307918 (+54) left the Wildcats six strokes behind TCU 307-306-299912 (+48), eight strokes behind UC-Santa Barbara 320-300-290910 (+46), and 10 strokes behind host UC-Riverside 309-295-304908 (+44).

Wildcats and the .500 Rule
With their .737 winning percentage and 71-25-1 win-loss record, the Wildcats are well above the .500 mark. A new rule mandates that teams must have better than a .500 record to be eligible for post-season play.