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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2001

Coach Randall has high hopes

Jayhawks motivated by last year’s late-season skid

August 11, 2001

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Kansas University and men's golf.

To outsiders, KU isn't known for its men's golf program. To find tradition-rich programs you need to go to the Arizona States, Georgia Techs and Dukes places where it is possible to play golf year-round.

Nevertheless, the Kansas program has been one of the nation's best during the last few years. In the fall of 1999, the Jayhawks were ranked No. 1 in the country for a week and spent the season ranked in the top 25.

KU also finished second in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma State, which won the NCAA men's golf championship that year, and boasted third-team All-American Ryan Vermeer.

Last season was not as kind to the Jayhawks who had a self-described "disappointing season."

Despite winning three tournaments the Kansas Invitational, Rice University Invitational and Stevinson Ranch Invitational and eight top-5 finishes, the Jayhawks placed seventh in the Big 12 Championship, 15th in the NCAA Midwest Regionals and failed to qualify for the NCAA Championship.

"Last year was real disappointing," returning senior Travis Hurst said. "We talked about winning the Big 12 and regionals and placing in the top five for nationals, but none of it happened. I don't know if it was fatigue or what."

Coach Ross Randall was surprised how his team crumbled toward the end of the season.

"The way the year went, they either played well or not good at all," said Randall, who has been KU's coach since 1980. "It's unusual for an older team to do that."

But just as that team went from good to bad last year, this season's team with the help of some incoming freshmen might do the opposite.

"The talent is there," he said. "But there is a big jump from high school to Division One golf. The fall semester is a learning process. With a little maturity we should be playing our best golf at the end of the season."

Randall said he expects Hurst to be the team's No. 1 golfer, but junior Chris Marshall could push for the top spot.

"Travis was one of the top 30 players in the country for most of the year," Randall said. "He fell out of it a bit at the end last year, but still was highly ranked."

Hurst said he knows why he faltered near the end.

"I was physically ready to play, but not mentally," the Erie senior said. "A few times when I was playing I realized that I was there on the course playing. I was not prepared mentally at all to play. But as for going into next season that's just going to motivate me. I know what I need to do."

Randall said he thinks Casey Harbour might be the team's third-best golfer, but there are some others who could reach that level, too.

"There are a couple of returners who might push for a spot," the KU coach said. "One guy is Tyler Hall. He played well in a few tournaments for us last year."

Another who could do well is incoming freshman Ryan Rainer. He was the men's golf state champion of Oklahoma's Class 6A the largest classification. Rainer won the title by five strokes.

Rainer attended Norman High, and Randall said he was able to whisk him away from the Oklahoma schools because he started recruiting Rainer before the other schools did.

"He was a highly recruited high school athlete who caught the attention of a lot of schools," Randall said. "He came to Kansas because I noticed him before the other schools did."

Pete Krsnich of Wichita should also help.

"He's been one of the top junior golfers in the state for several years," Randall said. "He's another one that wants to play as a freshman for us."

Still, nothing is guaranteed.

"I don't what to think of next season right now," Hurst said. "We lost two of our top five players to graduation and it seems like we were counting their scores every tournament. They key is for those other three to step up."

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