SE: Wildcats Return Home for Adams Pro Event

Joe Kinney graduated from K-State in 2009

June 13, 2012

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By Mark Janssen

It’s a reunion of sorts … a homecoming, so to speak. It’s a golf tournament, and eventually, it will be a wedding party.

That’s what’s on tap during the next few days for eight current and former Kansas State golfers – Joe Ida, Joe Kinney, Mitch Gregson, Kyle  and Curtis Yonke, Alex Carney, Matt Van Cleve and Robert Streb – who are entered in the Colbert Charity Classic as part of the Adams Golf Pro Tour Series.

The week-long festivities will be capped by the June 23 wedding of Streb.

“There’s a Nationwide event in Wichita the weekend of my wedding, but I better pass on that,” quipped Streb, a 2009 Kansas State graduate.

Streb, along with ex-Wildcat Aaron Watkins, are members of the Nationwide Tour, which in baseball talk is the Triple A of professional golf, just under the regular PGA Tour.  Ida, Kinney and Gregson are at the Double A level, which is called the National Golf Association Tour, formerly the Hooters Tour.

Beginning today at K-State’s Colbert Hills Golf Club, the golfers will tee it up in the Adams Golf Pro Tour Series event that will include single rounds on Wednesday through Saturday with a first-prize guarantee of $20,000-plus.

“Winning’s hard no matter what level you’re on,” said Ida, a 2010 graduate of K-State, “but I’d say the depth of this field might not be quite as strong on the NGA.”

What each former Wildcat golfer is looking forward to is returning to what served as their home course through their Wildcat collegiate years.

Kinney, a 2009 graduate said, “It’s a course you need to understand to have success. All of us know the ins and outs of Colbert.”

Further defined, he said, “You just have to keep the ball in play. You get the ball off line in the wind and there are some bad things the ball can find. You want to keep the ball where you can see it. If you keep it in play and eliminate those penalty strokes, you can do pretty well.”

Going into more detail, Ida said, “Knowing the course has to be an advantage just in terms of local knowledge of what club to hit off of holes like No. 3, No. 4 and No. 14. Those are areas where you can find a lot of trouble. Those are holes you can pick up some shots or lose some shots. The main thing is just keep things simple. You don’t have to be fancy to score at Colbert. Keep it in play, put it on the green and make some putts.”

Streb said the key to conquering the par-72 layout will be “… driving it well and hitting good shots on the Par 3s. They can be pretty tough.”

Especially tough if those Midwest winds are blowing.

With this course knowledge, Ida said, “I’ll be surprise if one of the K-State guys isn’t in the mix for the final outcome on Saturday. We’ve all played it hundreds of time, so we should have an advantage.”

The golfers each give a chuckle as to how their game has improved since being a Wildcat two to four years ago.

To the question, Kinney said, “I’m a much better player. Joe (Ida) and I joked about that in a recent practice round. It hasn’t really been a physical thing in terms of ball striking, but it’s just an overall understanding of how to get the ball in the hole.”

Laughing, Kinney added, “We don’t want to admit it, but everybody is a little immature in college. We think we know everything when we’re younger, but once you’re playing for a paycheck, you get a lot more honest with yourself. You don’t hit good shots that end up in bad places. Bad shots end up in bad places. You also learn to accept bogeys to eliminate double-bogeys.”

Ida said his improvement has come in what he termed “… the scoring clubs. My biggest improvement has come from 150 yards in. You have to hit those clubs closer to the hole and then make putts.”

Streb simply said it came down to “better course management,” plus he says, “I’m putting better than I used to.”

Aaron Watkins had originally planned to play in the Manhattan event, but two weeks ago he qualified for this week’s U.S. Open by placing second at the Germantown Country Club Sectional with rounds of 68 and 66.

Watkins becomes the first former Wildcat to play in the open since 1987 when Jim Colbert teed it up.

A 2004 K-State graduate, Watkins is one of 156 golfers to play in the Open that begins Thursday at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.

In 2009, Watkins earned his PGA card with a best finish being a tie for seventh at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans. For the year he made $263,969.

After losing his card and returning to the Nationwide Tour in 2011, Watkins earned $130,950, while this year he has banked $31,013 to rank 56th. For his career, he has played in 94 Nationwide events, earning over $333,000.

Based in Mesa, Ariz., Watkins recently placed fifth at the BMW Charity event with a 13-under par total.

Robert Streb, 2009 Graduate: With earnings of $88,353 this season, Streb ranks No. 14 on the Nationwide earnings list. At the BMW Charity, he placed third with a 14-under par total. Calling Edmond, Okla., home, Streb has made six of eight cuts this year with six Top 25 finishes. Streb is one of two individuals that hold the Colbert Hills course record at 64.

Joe Ida, 2010 Graduate, and Joe Kinney, 2009 Graduate: The two ex-Wildcats roomed together in college, and now are traveling together as much as possible on the National Golf Association Tour. Ida is coming off a victory at the Tom Watson Challenge at the Indian Hills Country Club in Kansas City where he shot a 6-under total. Watson placed fourth at 2-over par. Ida and Kinney both finished at 17-under par to tie for 10th place at the Cherry Blossom Classic last month in Georgetown, Ky.

The Colbert Hills Golf Club will be hosting its first ever professional tournament when the Adams Golf Pro Tour Series stops in Manhattan this week. Tournament director Bernie Haney said a field of 82 players is expected playing for a purse of an estimated $90,000, which includes $20,000 to the winner.

Rounds will begin at 8 a.m., each day with golfers going off both the front and the back. After the first two rounds, the tournament field will be cut to the top 40 percent, plus ties. Anyone scoring an 86 or higher in the first round will be eliminated from the competition.

The trophy presentation is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., Saturday. The event is open to the public at no charge.

The Adams Tour recently produced Bubba Watson, winner of the 2012 Masters, plus Ryan Palmer of the PGA Tour.

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