K-State tees off season with first-place finish

Junior transfer Ian McCray looks at a putt during the Wildcat Invitational at Colbert Hills Golf Course on Sept. 17. McCrary tied for 27th place at 4-over during the tournament. (Macey Franko | Collegian Media Group)

Editor’s note: Fixed the “putt” typo in the caption.

Kansas State men’s golf opened its 2023-24 campaign on the right foot, bringing home the Wildcat Invitational title for the second straight year. The win marks K-State’s fifth championship since the beginning of last season.

“I’m really proud of how the guys competed this week,” head coach Grant Robbins said to K-State Athletics. “It was a nice team win as everyone contributed. … It’s a great experience for us this early in the season and definitely something we will build on.”

The Wildcats finished with a three-round total of 17-under par, five strokes better than second-place Southern Illinois.

K-State had its best round Sunday afternoon, scoring an electric 15-under-par performance through the 18 holes at its home course, Colbert Hills. The performance gave K-State a six-stroke lead going into Monday’s final round.

Windy conditions allowed Southern Illinois to keep pace with the Wildcats during the final round. The Salukis gained one stroke, but ultimately the home course advantage came through for the Wildcats.

“I was really proud of the poise we showed down the stretch today,” Robbins said. “It got pretty close there toward the end, but we hit the shots and made the putts we needed to.” 

After losing three top scorers from last year, the Wildcat scoring lineup had some new faces. Cooper Schultz, Luke O’Neill and Nicklaus Mason returned, joined by transfer Ian McCrary and sophomore Ben Stoller, who only competed as an individual for K-State last year. 

Schultz finished in a tie for third place — a year removed from winning the individual title at Colbert. The junior played three rounds of under-par golf en route to leading the Wildcats’ scoring lineup with a 54-hole score of 8-under par. 

O’Neill, a senior coming off a season in which he became the fifth Wildcat of all time to compete in the NCAA Championship, placed sixth at 6-under par. 

Mason, competing as the Wildcats’ No.1 in the lineup, finished in eighth place at 3-under par. The junior got off to a slow start but bounced back quickly and tied the best 18-hole score of any player competing with just 66 strokes in the second round. 

McCrary, a junior transfer from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, tied for 27th place at 4-over. Stoller tied for 71st at 16-over par.

Competing as individuals for the Wildcats, Alex Lindstrom and JP Roller had strong performances. Lindstrom, a sophomore transfer from Hutchinson Community College, finished in second place at 10-under par. Roller, a junior transfer from Texas Tech, tied for 11th at 1-under par.

Lindstrom was outdone on the individual leaderboard by Grand Canyon’s Nicky Kling, who finished 13-under par — the best 54-hole score in the three years of the Wildcat Invitational.

K-State will head to the desert for the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate next Monday and Tuesday at UNM Golf Course in Albuquerque, New Mexico.