K-State Sports Extra: Golfs at Big 12

By Mark Janssen

This is the week of the Big 12 Conference Golf Championships with the men going to the Whispering Pines Country Club located north of Houston, and the women playing at the Jimmie Austin Golf Course in Norman, Okla.

Both events begin on Thursday and conclude on Sunday with the men playing a total of four rounds and the women three.

WOMEN LOOKING FOR CONSISTENCY

Kansas State women's golf coach Kristi Knight is hoping for a repeat performance.

"Last year on paper we were not expected to do anything, plus we weren't playing well going in," said Knight. "But then we put things together and placed fourth in the Big 12."

This year, Knight openly says heading into the three-round Big 12 Championships, "On paper, we're the worst rated team in the Big 12, but that doesn't mean anything. I feel with a solid effort by three or four people out there with solid scores, we can be up in the top six or seven teams this year.

"The Big 12 doesn't have a Top 10 team, but there's a wad of teams in the middle, so it's going to be very competitive," Knight said. "It's up to us to go out and play our best golf of the year."

Knight is encouraged with K-State's play as the Wildcats were sixth at the recent Baylor Spring Invitational, and before that placed second in a 10-team field at the Canes/Cards Classic in Miami Lakes, Fla.

For the 10-tournament fall and spring season, Abbi Sunner has been KSU's top player with a 77.06 stroke average, followed by Ami Storey at 77.50, Hanna Roos at 77.50 and Morgan Moon 77.77.

"We have some depth, but we haven't had a breakout consistent No. 1 player," said Knight. "Abbi has had super tournaments, Morgan has been super in some tournaments, and Hanna has had some super moments. It's just been varied throughout the year."

Knight added, "Golf is such a different animal because it comes and goes. You have to keep golf in perspective. You're a rock star one hole, and the next hole it jumps up and hits you in the head."

Knight said that Sunner, Roos and Moon were assured of spots last week, while earning the final two positions through a series of playoff rounds over the weekend were Storey and Emily Houtz (79.26).

Now, Knight says, "You almost hate to use the word consistency with golf, but we just have to do a better job of hanging in there during rounds. Golf is a game of inconsistencies, but we have to do a better job of controlling our emotions and controlling our decision making."

ADJUSTING TO BERMUDA

Down-grain, says KSU men's golf coach Tim Norris, "Bermuda greens are very fast." Into the grain, he adds, "Bermuda greens are significantly slower. The degree of difference is far greater than on Bent grass greens."

Adjusting to that at the Whispering Pines Country Club this weekend will be the key to Kansas State's team success at the Big 12 Championships.

"With Bermuda greens, you can start thinking too much and forget to just put a good stroke on it," said Norris. "They can play tricks with your mind because they putt so much better than they look."

K-State will put a three senior - Mitchell Gregson (71.59), Joe Ida (77.22) and Joe Kinney (73.00) - two freshmen - Curtis Yonke (74.62) and Ben Juffer (78.43) - lineup into action with Norris saying, "This is no less of a team than the one that finished fourth last year at Prairie Dunes. It's going to be just how we adapt to the course.

"I hope the experience with our seniors will be a plus, and then some blind ignorance from the two freshmen wouldn't be too bad," Norris said. "I'm sure there will be some butterflies flying on the first tee the first day, but that's how you learn."

Gregson is KSU's highest ranked player with a No. 52 national listing, while Ida is No. 160 among the 4,000-plus NCAA Division I golfers.

As a freshman, Yonke is coming off an individual first-place finish two weeks ago at the Missouri Intercollegiate.

"We haven't had the overall spring that we've wanted, but with a strong finish we could still be looking at a postseason Regional," Norris said.