The men's golf team battled with youth, inexperience, and even bee attacks in 2013-14. An up-and-down season ended with an 8th-place finish at the Big 12 tournament at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Texas. It was a disappointing finish to a trying season, but there is good news: Almost everyone from last year is back.
The Jayhawks lost only one player from last season to graduation, Ryley Haas out of Colby, Kansas. Haas tied for 32nd place at the Big 12 Tournament last year.
Sophomore Chase Hanna (27th individually at Big 12 tourney), juniors Ben Welle and Connor Peck (28th and 37th), and senior Logan Philley (43rd) are all back to lead the squad and provide big-tournament experience this year. Bryce Brown, fresh off winning the Nebraska Match Play Championship in his hometown of Lincoln over the summer, returns for his senior year as well.
Head Coach Jamie Bermel inked a strong three-man class for this season. For the first time in his twenty-two year coaching career, he signed a player (Spencer Painton) who made the cut in the US Junior. Coach Bermel scored another first in his recruiting career when he signed Daniel Hudson, who finished in the top 20 of the Callaway Junior World. Rounding out the class is Gary Daoust, who played for his home country of Belgium in the European Boys Championships.
COACH BERMEL SAYS:
"I think we will see considerable improvement over last year. We return 4 of our top 5 players from last year, and I hope all of them got better over the summer. Also, we have two redshirt freshmen in Brock Drogosch and Jacques Wilson, who will contribute to our depth-- along with three incoming freshmen, Dan Hudson, Spencer Painton, and Gary Daoust.
We have 11 guys on the team, and I think any one of them can contribute to our success this year. I'm sure with so many young kids, we may go up and down a little bit in the fall, but come spring we should be playing our best golf."
This is still a freshman and sophomore-laden team, so there may be more growing pains in 2014-15. But the future is bright; the foundation for a break-through season for the Jayhawks has been laid.
Simply put, the women's team had one of the most successful seasons in program history in 2013-2014. They finished in the top 10 of every tournament they competed in during the regular season. They finished 4th in the Big 12 Tournament, their highest finish since the inception of the conference. And to top it off, they advanced to Tulsa and the NCAA Championship for the second time in school history (first since 1990), where they finished 24th. And like the men's team, the majority of the team is back this year.
The KU women graduated two key players from last year's squad, Thanuttra Boonraksasat and Meghan Potee. Boonraksasat placed 90th at the NCAAs, Potee 126th.
The other three Jayhawks who competed at the NCAA Championship are back. Junior Yupaporn Kawinpakorn, who finished a team-best 89th, returns, along with sophomore (and fellow Thailand native) Pornvipa Sakdee and senior Minami Levonowich, who placed 122nd and 98th, respectively. Junior Mackenzie Thayer and seniors Gabriella DiMarco and Michelle Woods add leadership to the core of the team.
Like the men's team, the women's recruiting class is three-deep. From Montgomery, Texas, comes Kallie Gonzales, and Mackenzie Sexe arrives from Prior Lake, Minnesota (a.k.a. God's Country). Rounding out the class, Liz Winyarat becomes the latest product of the fruitful Thailand pipeline that Coach O'Neil has established.
COACH O'NEIL SAYS:
"Last season was something we had been working towards for a long time and words cannot completely express how proud I am of our team. It was a tremendous accomplishment to not only go to the NCAA Championship but to also finish in the top 5 of every tournament we competed in except for two during the entire year, including two team wins in the fall. The team really came together and committed to giving their best each day, and it certainly paid off.
"All that we accomplished last year is in the history books now, and we are excited to focus on the challenge ahead of us this season. After our success in 2013-14, we were able to earn invites into some of the top college events in the country, especially this spring. Our schedule will definitely help prepare us for our ultimate goal of returning to the postseason. We have three returners from our lineup last year, plus four other upperclassmen, all of whom bring a lot of experience and competitiveness to the table. In addition, we are excited for the three freshmen join our roster."
2013-2014 was a tremendous year, by all measures. However, just because the calendar is starting to approach 2015 doesn't mean the party has to be over yet. A strong group of upperclassmen are back, and stiff competition from the freshman class could push this group to even bigger heights this season.