‘Striving for greatness as a group’: Behind the historic men’s golf season

Will Hopkins looks to hit the ball during the first round of the Big 12 Golf Championship at Prairie Dunes Country Club on April 26, 2021. (Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State men’s golf concluded its record-breaking fall slate for the 2022-23 season — a surprising start to many, but not the team.

The Wildcats laid the groundwork for success last spring when they punched their ticket to the NCAA regionals. Making the postseason was a feat the team hasn’t accomplished since 2009.

“Once you can get that monkey off your back, something that’s been kind of lingering there, it gives you that confidence,” Will Hopkins, senior golfer, said. “We all went away for summer, and saw some individual progress and came back at the start of fall ready to go.”

For Grant Robbins, head coach, this team was years in the making. 

“I knew when we first got this group together that they were going to be really good, and I think what we’re seeing this year is the maturity,” Robbins said. “Last year we had some ups and downs, but we persevered and got to regionals. Breaking the barrier there gave them some confidence, but also left them hungry for more.”

The Wildcats did clean up their plate this fall. The team opened the season with three consecutive championships — a first for the program.

“Winning that first tournament, second tournament and then third tournament … the experience is invaluable and something we should use to our advantage,” Hopkins said. 

The team’s closeness, in addition to its experience, has played a huge role in their success this season. 

“The same group has kinda been together for a year now. I think they play for each other, and that really helps,” Robbins said. “Golf is an individual sport but there’s also a team component, and when guys come together and play for each other, special things can happen and I think we saw that this fall.”

The fall slate was undeniably unique from a player’s perspective as well. 

“In my time here, the personnel has changed a lot and it has made the teams not as closely [together] as the one we have this year,” Hopkins said. “We all get on very well — we push each other … so we’re kind of striving for greatness as a group and that’s something that [is] helping us each and every day.”

Togetherness, experience and confidence all played a huge role for the team entering the Big 12 Match Play Tournament and after the three championships. The best example of this was tying in their head-to-head matchup with top-ranked Texas Tech.

“Just looking at the numbers, they’re number one for a reason, but we’re also up there,” Cooper Schultz, redshirt sophomore golfer, said. “We want to win. We expected to beat [Texas] Tech. That’s our thing, we go out there and expect to win.” 

With the Match Play Tournament marking the end of the fall slate, the expectation of winning every matchup will still be prominent in the spring. 

“We’re aiming for the very top. I think if you set the bar any lower, then you’re just doing a discredit for yourself and the team,” Hopkins said. “We just want to keep on breaking the record books, getting through to the postseason, getting to that national championship and ultimately lifting up that trophy as a team.”