Wildcats prepare to tee off season at Kansas, in California

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While preparing to embark on a new season, K-State men’s and women’s golf will be looking at its three seniors to lead young rosters.

Kyle Weldon, Carly Ragains and Olivia Eliasson will take the reigns of the Wildcats’ golf teams as they each carry successful resumes into their senior seasons.

Ragains and Eliasson are the top two returning competitors on the women’s side. Ragains carries a 75.9 scoring average into the 2014-15 season while Eliasson had three top-10 finishes as a junior.

The women begin today in Lawrence at the Sunflower Invitational, while the men begin next Monday in Monterey, California at the St. Mary’s Invitational.

Three Big 12 teams will be participating in the women’s tournament, including K-State. Texas Tech and host Kansas are the other conference foes that the Wildcats will see on their trip down I-70.

The Wildcats women’s team is still under the steady hand of coach Kristi Knight, who is back for her 20th season with the program, however, Knight will be absent from the season opening tournament due to her mother’s death. Assistant coach Stewart Burke will handle the team during her absence.

Under Knight, K-State has had 35 top-3 finishes, including a second-place finish at Colbert Hills last season.

Knight’s team has three more players who played in six or more events last season — junior Scotland Preston, along with sophomores Katherine Gravel-Coursol and Madison Talley. Each of those players contributed significantly to K-State’s 2013-14 season.

The Wildcats bring in two freshmen this year, miles away from their new Manhattan home.

Connie Jaffery comes to the team from Kilwinning, Scotland. Jaffery earned the title of No. 1 junior golfer in Scotland, and was the country’s U18 Stroke Play champion. Chandler Gallagher moved to Manhattan from Kearny, Missouri. In high school, she was ranked No. 1 in Missouri and was the 2013 Midwest PGA Section student athlete of the year.

Both players are unproven commodities in collegiate golf, but will get a chance to prove themselves in the Sunflower Invitational. Ragains, Eliasson and Talley will also be in the scoring lineup. Gravel-Coursel will be playing in the tournament as an individual.

Weldon compiled the team’s best stroke average in the 11 tournaments he participated in last season and also tallied three top-10 finishes.

Besides Weldon, the other eight players on the men’s roster are sophomores or younger. The most experienced of those men is sophomore Seth Smith. Smith competed in eight tournaments last year with a stroke average of 74.72.

Fellow sophomore Connor Knabe competed in six events last season, with a slightly better stroke average than Smith at 74.5.

Trent Evans and Adam Lechner are the Wildcats’ two true newcomers. Evans is from Edmond, Oklahoma. where he played in the Oklahoma Junior Golf Tour. Lechner is from Kearney, Missouri. He was an All-State player in 2011 and 2012.

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