For the first time since 2000, the University of Kansas men’s golf team is headed to the NCAA Championships.
Paced by the tied for fifth-place finish of former Shawnee Mission East golfer Andy Spencer and tied for ninth-place finish of Daniel Sutton, the Jayhawks on Wednesday won the NCAA Pacific Regional contested at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton, Calif.
KU, which needed to place in the top five of 13 teams to advance to the NCAAs (May 25-30 at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla.) on Wednesday finished the 54-hole regional at 20-under-par 844. The Jayhawks defeated Stanford by one stroke for the first team victory at an NCAA regional in school history. Iowa State (847), Alabama (849) and Oregon (852) also qualified as a team for NCAAs.
Spencer, a sophomore from Leawood, Kan., shot an 8-under-par 208 (69-69-70), his fourth top five finish of the season. He became the second-highest KU finisher at an NCAA regional. Andy Stewart tied for third in 2001.
Sutton, a senior from Birmingham, England, led the tourney after one round. He shot 67-73-71 for a total of 5-under 211. He and Spencer carded 15 birdies over three days, which tied for fourth-best mark overall.
Junior Charlie Hillier shot a KU-best 3-under-par 69 on Wednesday and tied for 19th at 2-under 214 (72-73-69). Senior Daniel Hudson (74-69-72) and freshman Harry Hillier (73-71-71) tied for 23rd at 1-under 215.
"The message last night was, ‘Let’s go win this tournament. We are not here to just get fifth place. We are in a great position. We are just one stroke out of the lead,’’’ KU coach Jamie Bermel said. The Jayhawks were in third place, one stroke off the pace, entering the final round. “Hats off to the guys. To go out at the NCAA Regional, in the final round with all that pressure — that's impressive,” he added.
Prior to Wednesday, KU’s best finish at a NCAA Regional was a tie for third in 1996. Big 12 teams this season won four of the country’s six regionals. Oklahoma won the Norman (Okla.) Regional, Texas the Raleigh (N.C.) Regional and Oklahoma State the Columbus (Ohio) Regional. Texas Tech, Iowa State and Baylor also have qualified for the NCAA Championships.