Wildcats Return to Kansas for Shocker Classic

MANHATTAN, Kan. - It’s been less than a week since the Kansas State men’s golf team captured its first tournament title in more than four years but the Wildcats are already comfortable with their new condition. Although the winner’s circle has been elusive prior to winning the Ron Moore Invitational last Sunday, the Wildcats have made their home in the final pairing at a number of tournaments this season.

“It’s not like we haven’t played good golf this year,” K-State head coach Tim Norris said. “In my mind we were leading the (Pacific Invitational) for 53 and a half holes, we just came up short. With all those tournaments, teeing off in the last round and being in contention, I think that’s become our comfort level.

“It has been a lot of fun for these guys to be in a position to do something in that last round. Hopefully we can stay in that comfort level. That's where we want to be, and that's where we will be if we play good golf.”

The Wildcats look to continue their familiarization with the top of the leader board at the Diet Pepsi Shocker Classic at Wichita Country Club, March 31-April 1. The competition begins on Monday with an 8 a.m. shotgun start and the first 36 holes. Tuesday’s final round will consist of 18 holes and also begin with an 8 a.m. shotgun start.

K-State continues to be led by Mitchell Gregson, Joe Ida and Robert Streb. All three golfers will make their 10th appearance in the K-State scoring lineup this season on Monday and lead the squad in stroke average. While the trio’s consistent play has anchored the team, the Wildcats have received recent boosts from Kyle Yonke and Ross Geubelle. Yonke will make his third consecutive start in the scoring rotation and Geubelle his second.

"To be solid you have to count four good scores,” Norris said. “Depth is always going to be the difference. It’s not only the top four, but the throw out score. Is that still going to be a decent score? That was the key to last week, our throw out score was still pretty good.

“You still have to have a couple of guys that lead. You look at Joe and Mitch and every day we practice they're shooting the lowest scores as well. It’s not a matter of turning the switch on and off, it’s a daily thing and that confidence has a chance to grow every day.”

The Wildcats will get their first glimpse of some of the top teams in the Central Region this Spring as they compete against Texas-Arlington, SMU and host-school Wichita State. All three are ranked in the top-50 according to the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings on March 23 and the Shockers are the No. 26 team in the nation. In addition to the in-state showdown, K-State will face Iowa State and Nebraska from the Big 12 Conference.

Norris feels his team is excited about tasting victory but says there are other factors that are motivating the Wildcats in Wichita.

"Obviously there's a little increase in the confidence level,” Norris said of winning last week, “but our guys are excited about going to Wichita regardless of what we've done. It's an excellent golf course that’s where the Kansas Amateur is this year. Wichita State is having a great year and they've won several tournaments. You play against the golf course, but leading up to the tournament you like to see how you stack up to guys in the conference or in-state. Most of our guys know the golfers on the Wichita State team. We'll have our hands full, that’s for sure.”

 Kyle Smell and Daniel Wood will also make the trip to Wichita and compete as individuals.
 
K-State’s Projected Lineup
 1 - Joe Ida - So. - 72.78 - Top K-State finisher in five of last six events
 2 - Mitchell Gregson - So. - 72.74 - Has shot par or below in five consecutive rounds
 3 - Kyle Yonke - Sr. - 75.40 - Carded a career-best 68 in second round at Ron Moore Invite
 4 - Robert Streb - Jr.  - 73.89 - Back-to-back rounds of 71 to close the Ron Moore Invite
 5 - Ross Geubelle - RFr. - 74.25 - Contributed two rounds at Ron Moore Invite
 IND - Daniel Wood - Fr. - 75.00 - Shot a career-best 67 at the Ron Moore Invite
 IND - Kyle Smell - Fr. -  75.24 - First tournament action since the Braveheart Classic (3/4)

A Glance at the Field
The Wildcats return to Kansas and will see a field full of teams in their own region. After tangling with teams from the West Region in the first three events of the Spring, K-State will compete against eight teams from the Central Region, two teams from the East and one from the West. Four of the 16 teams in this year’s Diet Pepsi Shocker Classic compete outside Division I, including two in Division II (Florida Gulf Coast, Northeastern State), and two in NAIA (Oklahoma Christian, Oklahoma City). The field features six teams ranked in the March 23 Golfweek Poll. Wichita State (26), defending Shocker Classic champ UT-Arlington (46) and SMU (48) are in the top-50. Oklahoma Christian (1) and Oklahoma City (3) are two of the top teams in the NAIA. The Southland Conference (Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, UT-Arlington, UT-San Antonio) and the Big 12 (Iowa State, K-State and Nebraska) have the most teams in the competition. K-State is 6-2 against the field after teeing it up with four of the teams in previous competitions this season. 

Wichita Country Club
The Wichita Country Club is in its 108th year of operation and has been at its current location since 1950. The par-71 course designed by William H. Diddel has been host to numerous tournaments throughout its history, including the 1954 LPGA Wichita Open, 1963 NCAA Championship, 1970 Western Amateur and will host the 2008 Kansas Amateur Championship this summer. The course will be set-up at 6,814 yards for the Diet Pepsi Shocker Classic. “The golf course will be in great shape,” K-State coach Tim Norris said. “It’s nice to be able to play close to home in conditions that you're familiar with. We know how fast the weather can change.”

Last Time Out
With a balanced scoring effort on Sunday, the Wildcats captured the team's first tournament championship in over four years at the Ron Moore Invitational at Palm Valley Golf Club. K-State, which has placed in the top-5 in five events this season including two second place finishes, fired a three-day total of 280-278-287--845 (-19) and held off a charge from Ohio State to win its first title since the 2003 Purina Classic. The Wildcats entered Sunday's final round three strokes behind San Diego, but the Toreros faded leaving the hot-shooting Buckeyes as the last threat. Ohio State, which opened the tournament with the third-worst round of 292, shot a 277 on Saturday and a 278 on Sunday but couldn't overtake K-State.  Joe Ida was the top shooter for Kansas State on Sunday with a 2-under 70. His three-day total of 68-69-70--207 (-9) placed him in a tie for third overall and is the seventh best 54-hole score in K-State history.

The Geubelle Effect
Kansas State has re-written the record books this season with some of the lowest rounds and tournament scores in school history. Though Joe Ida and Mitchell Gregson have consistently been at the top of the lineup throughout the season and have undoubtedly led the Wildcats to these low scores, there is another common element - Ross Geubelle. The redshirt freshman from Lakin, Kan., has played in just four of the team’s nine tournaments but during his three appearances in the K-State scoring lineup the Wildcats have shot their three lowest scores of the season. Guebelle has yet to shoot below 72 this season, but has quietly contributed a score in all three tournaments while helping the Wildcats reach the record lows. Geubelle has the fourth-best stroke average (74.25) on the team this season and will appear in the scoring lineup at the Diet Pepsi Shocker Classic.   

K-State’s Big Three
Mitchell Gregson, Joe Ida and Robert Streb have been the top-three scorers for Kansas State throughout the season, leading the Wildcats in stroke average. The three have appeared in the K-State scoring lineup in all nine tournaments in 2007-08. Gregson leads the Wildcats with 17 rounds at or below par while Ida and Streb are second with 11 each. The trio has combined to contribute 91.4 percent of their rounds towards the team score. Gregson has led the Wildcats in four events and Ida has led in five.

Wildcats and the .500 Rule
With their .702 winning percentage and 92-37-2 win-loss record, the Wildcats are well above the .500 mark. A new rule for 2007-08 mandates that teams must have better than a .500 record to be eligible for postseason play.