The UMKC men’s golf team has accomplished a lot this season, and the Kangaroos are hoping their good run continues this month.
UMKC recently won the Western Athletic Conference championship for the second straight year. The Roos will play in an NCAA regional tournament for the fourth time in five years and sixth time overall starting Monday, May 13 at University of Texas Golf Club in Austin.
UMKC has played against many of the teams and individuals in the regional, coach J.W. VanDenBorn said, and could benefit from that strong regular-season schedule.
“We are not in that category of just being happy that we made the NCAA Tournament,” VanDenBorn said. “We’re going to play and compete. We’ve been there and done this. Now we need to go build off that.”
The Roos are led by McCain Schellhardt, a junior from Edmond, Oklahoma, who was named the conference’s player of the year.
“All the other teams in the WAC have phenomenal players,” Schellhardt said of the honor. “They are all really good players. To be named and to be voted on by the other coaches as the best player in the WAC is really special.”
Schellhardt led the conference in stroke average (71.27) while playing 30 rounds during the 2018-19 season. Schellhardt led UMKC with 18 rounds at par or better, and he finished fourth in the conference tournament with a total score of even-par 213 after rounds of 72, 70 and 71 at Oakbrook Golf Course in Lakewood, Washington.
“I’ve been playing real well,” Schellhardt said. “The season has been great. Not only have I been playing good golf, but the scores are lining up and then the place where I am finishing is also lining up. It’s nice to see that working together.”
VanDenBorn said he liked what he saw in Schellhardt while recruiting him, even though Schellhardt hadn’t played a lot.
“He was an extremely talented kid coming out of high school. A really raw kid. That is one of the things we liked about him as a junior golfer,” VanDenBorn said. “He hadn’t been playing that long, but the physical tools were there.”
Schellhardt said one thing he struggled with at times early in his career at UMKC was confidence. He said he had it in high school but lost it at times during his first two seasons at UMKC.
“Now, through practice, through hard work and playing in tournaments, that confidence has come back,” he said.
Schellhardt said he thinks he is pretty solid with all parts of his game, but driving the ball is the most consistent skill.
VanDenBorn said Schellhardt has benefited from returning to his natural ball flight. Schellhardt liked to draw the ball as a freshman before trying to fade it more last season.
“The guy just works tirelessly,” VanDenBorn said. “He’s always looking to improve, always asking questions and looking at different ways to hone his technique or different approaches.”
Schellhardt said he hopes to benefit from the experience he gained from playing in an NCAA regional last year as well as his positive experiences this season. The top three teams and the lowest individual not on those teams make it from the regional to the national tournament May 24-29 at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“That is why I am playing college golf, to get to the highest level” Schellhardt said. “One of the biggest accomplishments of my golfing career would be for the team to get out of the regional.”
Regional play will also include Kansas’ team, three individuals from Kansas State and one player from Missouri.
Kansas is in the regionals for the fourth straight year and will play in Stanford, California. The Jayhawks are led by senior Charlie Hillier, a senior from Te Puke, New Zealand, who has a stroke average of 70.93 for 27 rounds. The team also includes Hillier’s brother, Harry, a sophomore, and Andy Spencer, a junior from Shawnee Mission East High School.
K-State’s Roland Massimino, Jacob Eklund and Jeremy Gandon will be in the regional in Athens, Georgia, and Mizzou’s Jamie Stewart will be in the regional in Simpsonville, Kentucky.
Massimino, a senior from Lumberville, Pennsylvania, was K-State’s most consistent golfer this season, leading the team with a scoring average of 70.96 for 27 rounds.
Stewart a sophomore from Renfrewshire, Scotland, was MU’s top individual at nine tournaments this season and had a 70.67 scoring average.