Hottest ’Hawks

Men’s golf wins four in a row, paced by sophomore with PGA dreams

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The news that came out of Maui Oct. 31 had to be read twice to be believed: Men’s golf, KU’s hottest team of the early fall, won the Ka’anapali Classic by 20 shots, at 52-under par, for the Jayhawks’ fourth-consecutive stroke-play tournament victory.

The Jayhawks’ 54-hole score, 800, was the team’s lowest since at least 1986-’87, and their 20-shot margin was the fifth-largest in program history. With the spring season still ahead, the 10th-ranked ’Hawks have already tied the school record for most tournament victories in a season.


SPORTS | MEN'S GOLF FEATURE
Luke Kluver

“Wow, what a way to end the fall,” said ninth-year coach Jamie Bermel. “I think the guys are really starting to believe in themselves and continue to get better every day. We still have some work to do, but we are definitely headed in the right direction.”

KU first pointed in the right direction in the season’s second tournament, the mid-September Gopher Invitational in Independence, Minnesota. Sophomore Luke Kluver entered the final round with a two-shot lead, but, after a bogey at No. 8, knew he was in trouble.

Unlike PGA Tour events, collegiate tournaments don’t often include huge leaderboards. So, after firing his tee shot on No. 9, Kluver pulled out his cellphone and checked the standings online.

“At that point, I saw I was three shots behind,” Kluver said in an interview with Wayne Simien, c’05, on The Jayhawker Podcast. “When I saw that, I was kind of like, ‘If you want to win a golf tournament, you’re going to have to go get it. You’re going to have to go catch this guy. I don’t have a win yet, so let’s make this happen.’”

With a hot putter and strong wedge play, Kluver rallied with five birdies in the final 10 holes for a two-stroke victory, his first as a Jayhawk, and his team withstood a late rally by Notre Dame to finish as co-champions.

“Luke was a man out there this week,” Bermel said afterward. “If he has a good putting week, like he did this week, it’s a win.”

Through the first four events of the season, Kluver, of Norfolk, Nebraska, boasted a 69.42 scoring average while shooting under par in 10 of 12 rounds—and even par in the other two—which earned him Big 12 Golfer of the Month and placed him among 14 others on the Haskins Award watch list, honoring the country’s top collegiate golfer.

As he explained to Simien (kuathletics.com/luke-kluver-loving-the-big-stage), Kluver is not shy about his talents and goals. He intends to one day win on the PGA Tour, and says he already has “a lot of the golf shots that the best players in the world are hitting.”

He comes from an athletic family. Kluver’s mother played collegiate golf, and his brother, Jake, currently plays at Creighton. At a broad-shouldered 6-foot-3, he inherited the stout frame that allowed his father to play both football and basketball as a collegian.

Kluver spent Nebraska’s long winters playing basketball in his hoops-mad hometown, which he says honed his fearless competitive instinct.

“I love being able to go out on that floor and guard the best player on the other team, make a big shot, whatever it is. I take that basketball mentality of, I’m a competitor, I want to prove people wrong and I want to put myself in that spotlight. And I think that’s why, when I get on a stage like that, I love being there and I want to perform at my best.”

Kluver naturally expresses admiration for U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, c’07—“the Kansas legend, basically”—and is quick to draw comparisons with Woodland’s own basketball background and competitive drive.

“I would never play a sport if I didn’t want to make it to the biggest league or the biggest stage,” Kluver told Simien. “So why did I come to KU? Because I wanted to gain experience, I wanted to play for these coaches, I wanted to play for the University, and, ultimately, I want to get to the PGA Tour.”

KU won back-to-back tournaments for the first time since 2016 with victory in the Windon Memorial, in Illinois, where sophomore Davis Cooper earned medalist honors at 10-under par. KU’s third-consecutive stroke-play victory came Oct. 18 at the Quail Valley Collegiate in Florida, where seniors Harry Hillier and Callum Bruce tied for second at 11-under.

The Jayhawks return to action Feb. 21 in Stanford’s tournament, The Prestige.

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