Wildcats Return to Thunderbird Invitational

Friday-Sunday, April 13-15, 2007
   Friday: 7:30 a.m.(PT) - Tee Times
   Saturday: 7:30 a.m. (PT) - Tee Times   Sunday: 7:30 a.m.(PT) - Tee Times
Karsten Course
Tempe, Ariz.
Par 72 / 7,037 yards
Hosted by Arizona State
Teams (15):
  Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, California, Central Florida, Fresno State, KANSAS STATE, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, San Diego State, Southern California, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, UNLV.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas State men’s golf team will return to the site of its most successful tournament a year ago as the Wildcats head to Tempe, Ariz., to take part in the ASU Thunderbird Invitational, Friday through Sunday, April 13-15, at the Karsten Course. Last year, K-State recorded its second-highest finish of the season and then-senior Ben Kern took home Kansas State’s first outright individual title since the fall of 2003. The 2007 version, which is the Wildcats’ final regular-season tune up, will be a three-round, three-day affair with tee times from hole Nos. 1 and 10 beginning 7:30 a.m. (PT) on  Friday. Saturday and Sunday will also be 7:30 a.m. tee times. Live Results for the Thunderbird Invitational will be available at www.golfstat.com. Results from the tournament will also be posted on www.k-statesports.com at the conclusion of play each day.

     The par 71, 7,017-yard Karsten Course is the home to both the Arizona State men’s and women’s team golf teams. Located on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., the Karsten Course opened its doors in September 1989.  For more information on the Karsten Course, please visit www.asukarsten.com.
     Kansas State is 1-7-0 against the field this year, picking up its lone victory over Fresno State at the Wolf Pack Classic in October... Kansas State will see four of Golfweek’s top-25 teams this weekend... No. 5 UNLV and No. 6 USC lead the field, followed by No. 15 Texas A&M and No. 24 Arizona State... Ten of the 15 teams have recorded either first- or second-place finishes this year... Five of the top six teams from the event in 2006 return, including first-place team Arizona, UNLV (2nd), Kansas State and San Diego State (T3rd), and Arizona State (6th).

     Ben Kern pieced together two-consecutive rounds of 6-under par 65 to capture K-State's first outright individual title since 2003 during the 2006 ASU Thunderbird Invitational. Kern's efforts propelled the Wildcats to a tie for third, as the team carded a three-round total of 17-under par 835. Kern fired an astonishing three-round total of 14-under par 199 on the par 71, 7,017-yard Karsten Course.
     Kern was the first Wildcat to win a tournament outright since Matt Van Cleave won the Purina Classic in October of 2003. Kern carded three-consecutive sub-70 rounds on the weekend en route to setting the school's lowest all-time 54-hole score record. Van Cleave previously held the record with a three-round total of 202 at the Purina Classic.
     The accolades didn’t end there for Kern as he set the ASU Thunderbird Invitational record for low score, becoming the first player in the 34-year history of the tournament to shoot under 200. He also found himself in good company with other past individual champions of the ASU Thunderbird Invitational. Other notable medalists of the tournament include Champions Tour participate Scott Simpson (1975), as well as PGA Tour greats Corey Pavin (1979) and Phil Mickelson (1991 and 1992).

     This year will mark the third-straight season that Kansas State has participated in the Thunderbird Invitational. K-State’s first time in the event came with marginal success as the team finished 13th of 15 teams following a 45-over par 897 performance. However, then-senior Matt Van Cleave tied for third at even-par 213. K-State came back strong in 2006 behind the efforts of then-senior Ben Kern as the Wildcats tied for third at 17-under par 835, the second-lowest 54-hole team score in school history. Kern won the event, carding a 54-hole score of 14-under par 199.

     The Wildcats have faced tough competition up to this point in the season and will continue to tee it up against highly-ranked opponents. K-State has faced or will face nine of the top 25 teams in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Ratings, including five top-10 teams, during the 2006-07 campaign. The Wildcats will not be tested more than this week as four top-25 teams are in the field in Tempe.

     After finishing 18th at the Rio Pinar Intercollegiate to start 54-hole play this spring, Kansas State caught fire during March, especially in its last two events of the month. K-State finished seventh at the Fresno State Golf Classic with a score of 17-over par 881 and tied for third at the Ron Moore Invitational with a season-low 14-under par 850. During those two events, the Wildcats recorded four of their top five team rounds, increased their winning percentage from .309 to .419, and bettered its Golfweek ranking from 160 to 139.

     Individually, Kyle Yonke has led K-State’s charge as he has averaged 71.17 strokes per round over the last two events, followed by Mitchell Gregson (72.67), Joe Kinney (73.00) and Robert Streb (73.17). K-State collected seven of its top 10 individual rounds during those two events, all top-five individual 54-holes scores, recorded four top-20 finishes, and saw five players record their career-low 54-hole scores.

     According to the latest district rankings by Golfweek released March 19, the Wildcats are on the outside looking in when it comes to making the NCAA Regionals. According to the publication’s website, which has K-State ranked 14th, seven teams from the Central District are allocated spots in regionals. However, Kansas State is arguably one of the hottest teams in the district over the past several weeks. The Wildcats are averaging a 54-hole score of 878.67 over its past three events. Only No. 2 Tulsa (859.67), No. 5 Wichita State (869.33) and No. 6 Nebraska (875.00) have better scores. Other teams that are currently ranked in the top seven in the district are No. 1 Oklahoma State (878.83), No. 3 Kansas (886.33), No. 4 Colorado (889.67) and No. 7 Iowa State (901.67).

     Kansas State has relied heavily on the play of junior Kyle Yonke, sophomore Robert Streb and freshmen Mitchell Gregson and Joe Ida. Yonke has appeared in 29 career tournaments to date, including 16-straight and all 11 this season, a streak that will continue this weekend at the Thunderbird Invitational. Since coming to K-State, Streb has seen action in 23 of 24 team events and also competed as an individual in the 2006 NCAA Championship. Both Gregson and Ida have competed in all 11 events this season. Sophomore Joe Kinney appears to be a major part of the spring lineup as he was a year ago as a freshman. Last year, Kinney saw action in seven-straight events and is in the lineup for the seventh-consecutive time this spring.

K-State's ASU Thunderbird Invitational Lineup
NAME             YR-EXP HOMETOWN       RDS  AVG.
Robert Streb     So.-1L Edmond, Okla.   28 75.11 
Joe Ida          Fr.-HS Ft. Scott, Kan. 31 75.94
Mitchell Gregson Fr.-HS Waterloo, Ill.  31 75.65 
Kyle Yonke       Jr.-2L Lubbock, Texas  31 74.87 
Joe Kinney       So.-1L Antioch, Ill.   19 77.37