MANHATTAN, Kan. - Tim Norris and the K-State golf team don't catch many cartoons these days.
In fact, the most looney scenes of the fall season were the Wildcats shooting some of the lowest scores in school history. Norris does get animated, however, when talking about his high hopes for the spring and the positive effect the new Fieldhouse Development Indoor Practice Facility is having on his program.
"We're practicing instead of sitting around watching cartoons and waiting for the frost," Norris said describing the preparation advantage his team had last fall after closing the schedule with a pair of top-3 finishes.
The Wildcats open the spring slate on Monday with a trip to California and the Braveheart Classic hosted by UC Riverside. Norris thinks his team will be ready to challenge for the title from the beginning of the tournament at Oak Valley Golf Club, which starts with 36 holes on Monday and concludes with the final 18 on Tuesday.
"Mentally this isn't our first tournament," Norris said. "Physically yes it is, but they feel like they've got a pretty good chance to compete in this first tournament. This can't be spring training for us, we've got to get going right off the bat. We need to be pretty good and I think we've got an excellent chance to do that."
"I think this indoor facility has really come in handy this winter. It's been quite a snowy winter and cold, but they've been out there every day. What I've seen when we've been out on the course is a lot more trust in their swings because they've put in more time out on the range seeing their ball flight."
Kansas State will send Joe Ida, Robert Streb, Mitchell Gregson, Kyle Smell and Kyle Yonke as members of the scoring lineup and will take Daniel Wood to compete in the tournament as an individual. The scoring format for the competition will be the best four of five scores contributing to the team score in each round.
Ida (73.0), Streb (73.67) and Gregson (72.94) all averaged less than 74 strokes per round in the fall and will continue to be looked at as the scoring nucleus for the Wildcats' success. Smell showed signs of promise throughout the fall with a low-round of 67 and a top-10 finish sprinkled in among his inaugural results.
Yonke returns to the K-State lineup for the first time since the Jim Colbert Intercollegiate on Set. 24-25, and Norris is hoping to capitalize on the senior's wealth of experience.
"Kyle had a good qualifying, he had a 68 one day from the black and blue tees - that was quite a round," Norris said. "We're looking to see Kyle get back into it. He had a rough go of it in the fall but he's pretty motivated and excited to get back into the lineup. I think he's a guy that could really help us."
In it's second trip to Beaumont, Calif., in consecutive years, K-State faces a 17-team field featuring traditional power TCU and six teams the Wildcats competed against last fall. The Wildcats posted an 8-0 mark against those squads. Gregson, Ida and Streb each played the course last year when the Wildcats finished in 9th out of 17 teams.
The Braveheart Classic marks the first of six events for the Wildcats this spring, culminating with the Big 12 Championship on April 25-27, at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Texas.
K-State’s Projected Lineup
1 - Joe Ida - So. - 73.00 - Finished the fall with two of top five 54-hole scores in KSU history
2 - Robert Streb - Jr. - 73.67 - Carded rounds of 66 and 67 last fall
3 - Mitchell Gregson - So. - 72.94 - Led the Wildcats in scoring average through the fall
4 - Kyle Smell - Fr. - 74.56 - Low round of the fall was a 67 at the Pacific Invitational
5 - Kyle Yonke - Sr. - 76.33 - Team leader with 96 total rounds in his career
IND - Daniel Wood - Fr. - 75.67 - Finished sixth the last time out as an individual (Colbert)
A Glance at the Field
Kansas State will face its second-largest field of the season when they take on 16 other squads at the 2008 Braveheart Classic. Among the teams competing 11 are from the Western Region and the other six are from the Central Region. Kansas State is the lone Big 12 Conference school and is joined by teams from the newly formed America Sky Conference (Sacramento State, Weber State), Big West (Cal-Poly, Cal State-Northridge, UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside), Horizon League (Loyola University), Missouri Valley (Missouri State), Mountain West (TCU), Summitt League (Southern Utah), Division II Sunshine State Conference (Barry), West Coast (Gonzaga, Portland), WAC (Boise State, Utah State) and Independent (Texas-Pan American). TCU (48) is the top-ranked Division I team in the field according to Golfweek.com’s Feb. 24 rankings, followed by K-State (70), Portland (90) and UC Santa Barbara (97). Defending Division II National Champion Barry is ranked No. 4 in the Feb. 22 Golfworld/Nike Coaches Poll. K-State is 8-0-0 against the field after teeing it up with six of the teams in previous competitions this season.
Last Time Out
A school-record team score and six-stroke lead wasn’t enough to hold off a charge from the top-ranked team in the country as Kansas State finished in second place at the Pacific Invitational on Nov 5-7, 2007. The Wildcats torched the team record book with the lowest 54-hole score in school history, but was unable to hold off No. 1-ranked Charlotte on the final three holes. Charlotte took the tournament title at Brookside Country Club and continued its unbeaten run through the fall with a score of 278-275-271824 (-40). K-State finished two strokes back at 273-274-279826 (-38). K-State tallied two top-5 rounds in school history in the opening rounds and Joe Ida scored the lowest round ever by a Wildcat on a par-72, helping the Wildcats beat the team 54-hole low score of 830 set at the 2003 Purina Classic.
Oak Valley Golf Club
Oak Valley golf course will be set up as a 6,916-yard, par-72 course for the Braveheart Classic. Oak Valley’s website, www.oakvalleygolf.com, states that the course “possesses memorable vistas with natural rolling terrain, picturesque elevation changes and fantastic shot values... this Landmark Signature Design is filled with challenges to test players of all skill levels... well-manicured bunkers, native grass areas and a touch of water provide stunning highlights to its beauty and splendor. "It's a very, very good golf course," K-State head coach Tim Norris said. "They hold one of the sectional qualifying for the PGA Tour and US Open qualifying there. It's an excellent golf course, very demanding. It's not going to be a shootout; it's going to reward good shots. You have to make some recovery shots, but it’s a ball striker’s golf course. With the work we've put in, that's going to help us. It's not tricky. It's all right out in front of you, no mystery holes. It's in an area that is susceptible to winds and some high winds at times. I wouldn't be at all disappointed if the wind blew a little bit."