Many a player started in on the woulda, shoulda, coulda scorecard filled with ifs and buts, and for decades former Kansas University golf coach Ross Randall would interrupt them all with the same question: “What’d ya shoot?”
It’s all that matters in golf, and there is no room for subjectivity in the answer. The score is the lone measuring stick in golf, a cruel sport for the weak of mind.
And then there is Kansas senior Chris Gilbert from Simi Valley, Calif. He keeps getting better and better and better, and he has the scorecards to prove it. His average scores during his Kansas career: 76.03 as a freshman, 73.57 as a sophomore, 72.92 as a junior and 71.56 in this, his senior season. Gilbert, who earned the first two tournament victories of his college career this season, leads the Jayhawks into the three-day, four-round Big 12 tournament that gets under way today at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson.
The golfers are scheduled to play 36 holes today and 18 in each of the following two days.
The Big 12 Championship was played at Prairie Dunes two years ago, when as a sophomore Gilbert placed tied for 14th at 12-over par and was KU’s top finisher. The punitive 6,759-yard, par-70 course is considered by many to be as true a test of golf skill as any course in the state.
“It’s plenty of golf course,” Gilbert said. “A lot of people talk about how hard it is off the tee. I think that’s the least of the problems.”
The most difficult aspect of the course?
“I think it’s all around the greens,” Gilbert said. “You could have a short iron or wedge in, and it’s a really tough shot just to get on the same section as the pin. And if you miss some of those greens, they’re very undulating. The greens weren’t even fast last time, and they were still really tough to chip and putt on.”
Gilbert has set his goal higher than improving upon his performance from two years ago.
“The only reason I show up is to try to win,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it because my short game has improved a lot in the last two years, and that’s a key out there besides keeping it in play.”
He said he doesn’t have a favorite hole at Prairie Dunes.
“They’re all tough,” Gilbert said. “There aren’t that many birdie opportunities out there. There are only two par-5s. You have to hold onto the birdies you get and grind through as many pars as you can. Normal courses, you’re playing tough to make birdies, and there that’s what you’re doing just to make pars.”
Sophomore Stan Gautier (73.5 scoring average), senior Alex Gutesha (73.66), junior Ryley Haas (76.05) and senior Paul Harris (74.83) also will compete for Kansas. Three of the nine (West Virginia does not field a team) schools are ranked in the top 25: 3. Texas, 6. TCU, 14. Oklahoma State.