Every college has a few select athletes who take their talents to the next level and play professionally. For K-State, this list of professionals includes names such as Jordy Nelson in football, Michael Beasley in basketball and Erik Kynard in track and field.
Another sport where Wildcat fans have found their alumni playing at the professional level is golf.
K-State alum Robert Streb has excelled on the PGA Tour. He had his most successful season this year on the tour when he ranked 18th on the FedEx Cup rankings and 32nd on the worldwide rankings.
Streb said his exposure to the game of golf began around the age of two or three when his dad would go to the range and practice. He would take a club and a bucket of balls and go to work.
That early exposure helped him reach success in high school, and he began to look to play on a collegiate level. This was a dream that eventually led Streb to Manhattan and K-State in 2005.
“I talked to a few (other universities),” Streb said. “Tulsa, Texas Tech and Wichita State were probably the other three big ones that I looked at. So after looking at all of them, K-State ended up being the best opportunity for me and it all panned out great.”
Golf didn’t stop for Streb in college, however, as his dream of playing professionally arose shortly after arriving at K-State.
“Kind of after my second year, I played pretty bad and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever make it at that kind of thing,” Streb said. “But I went back to work at it. I figured I’d try it after college because I didn’t know how to do much else, so it was a good thing that it worked out.”
There is no doubt it has worked out for Streb this past year. He finished in the top 10 individually at nine of his tournaments, including his first win on the PGA Tour at the McGladrey Classic.
Whereas many golfers collapse under the pressure of a possible tournament win, Streb said he never felt that pressure.
“I wasn’t really in it until the very end, so I wouldn’t really call it a high stressor or anything, except just trying to scratch and claw to stay in it,” Streb said. “And then caught some luck and then next thing you know I’m in a playoff and I’ve been playing good up to that point in the day.”
The luck Streb found in the tournament helped set him up for his future career.
“It all kind of went my way,” Streb said. “You look at it as now you’ve got a job for a couple more years, so it’s kind of great for someone who hasn’t been around that long and you’re trying to find a way to stay out here.”
The tournament that might have put Streb on the map was the Greenbrier Classic. On the ninth hole of the tournament, Streb tossed his putter toward his bag. When the putter landed, the head of the club fell off and he was no longer able to use it.
PGA rules state that you have three options to replace a broken club during a tournament if it breaks during the normal course of play. Unfortunately for Streb, tossing your putter at your bag doesn’t qualify as normal course of play, so he was forced to finish the remaining nine holes by putting with a wedge.
“When I broke it I was kind of like, ‘Well my week’s over. How do I just stay where I’m at without giving a whole bunch of shots away?’” Streb said. “So I struck a couple there early.”
Playing on the tour, while still serious work, comes with its perks. Some perks include getting to play with popular golfers like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.
“It’s fun,” Streb said. “You watch them on TV all the time and you forget that they’re just normal guys too. But it’s fun to try to get to play against them and see how you can improve to compete with them. Obviously they’re on a much higher level than me, but it’s nice to see what you need to work on in order to compete with them.”
Although he finished successfully on the tour this season, Streb does not take all of the credit for those accolades. He said many people have helped him get to this point in his career.
“My swing coach (Tosh Hays) has been a big help,” Streb said. “He has worked with me since I was 16. He’s been a big help and helped me shake off a lot of my problems and never really made me do an overhaul on my golf swing.”
Streb also gave credit to Tim Norris, who coached him during his time at K-State.
“(Norris) was kind of nice because you could bounce things off of him because he played on the tour for nine years,” Streb said. “It’s not like he didn’t know how to do it. He was a big deal and he obviously got me to go to K-State, so he helped with a number of things there. And then my parents, giving me a chance to play and get going there after school.”
Streb said he’s a normal guy. He puts his pants on one leg at a time. And, like all golfers on the PGA Tour today, he got his start somewhere.
For Tiger Woods, it was at Stanford University, for Rickie Fowler, it was at Oklahoma State and for Jordan Spieth, it was at Texas. Robert Streb’s start was at K-State, and he has a message for current and future golfers.
“It’s a great place to go to school,” Streb said. “If you want to pursue golf, its obviously going to take some time and effort, and hopefully you’ve got a little bit of luck and things go your way.”