Last year was hardly a vintage year for Kansas University's men's golf team.
Coach Ross Randall's squad settled for a sixth-place finish in the Big 12 Conference championships and failed to qualify for the NCAA championships with a 13th place finish at the Central Regional.
"We did well during the season, but it didn't end the way we had hoped," Randall said. "It was a disappointing finish for us."
Randall loses two key players off that team - Andrew Price and Kevin Ward - but he has plenty of talent returning, notably Tyler Docking and Gary Woodland.
Woodland, a Shawnee Heights High product, and Olathe East grad Docking teamed to win the KGA Four-Ball title in July at Alvamar, the Jayhawks' home course. Woodland also won the Kansas Amateur championship in July, one up over former KU golfer Tyler Shelton at Colbert Hills in Manhattan.
Ward was the recognized as the leading player on last year's team and that mantle will fall on Woodland this year.
"He's becoming a clutch player," Randall said of Woodland. "He has improved so much focus-wise in competition."
In addition to the KGA Four-Ball and the Kansas Amateur, Woodland won the Topeka City championship and the Kansas City Stroke Play tournament during the summer.
Woodland's overall game has improved noticeably, Randall said, but his strength remained in the tee box.
"Golf has become a distance game," the veteran KU coach said, "and Gary has more distance than just about anybody. It's like being 7-foot-1 and playing basketball. You can't coach that."
Docking also has improved. He contributed a handful of clutch shots that helped he and Woodland knock off Chris Mabry and John Kelly, a pair of Missouri University players, in a thrilling KGA Four-Ball that didn't end until Woodland nailed a five-foot birdie putt on the fourth sudden-death hole.
In addition to Woodland and Docking, both juniors, Randall will have four seasoned seniors on the squad in Ryan Rainer, Luke Trammell, Pete Krsnich and Jason Sigler.
"We will miss the low scores that Kevin and Andrew brought us, but I think that with Tyler and Gary working hard this summer, we will have a great year," Randall said.
Among the younger players who could make an impact are sophomore Zach Pederson and incoming freshmen Patrick Roth and David Cosel.
Randall also expects to have a memorable year in the classroom.
His golfers had the highest grade-point average among the KU men's programs last year with a 3.25 in the fall semester and a 3.3 in the spring semester.