K-State had to pull out of this tournament last fall due to COVID-19 protocols, but the Wildcats have been successful in the event’s three-year history, finishing sixth in 2018 and third in 2019.
“The guys are really excited to play the Big 12 match play event,” said head coach Grant Robbins called. “If you asked those who have played before they would say this is the most fun tournament they play all year.”
The special thing about this tournament is that it differs from the normal 54-hole stroke format, in which the four lowest individual results count for the team rating.
In the match-play format, you want to win your individual matchup in order to collect points.
“Matchplay is a completely different form of competition where you compete against an opponent and try to earn a point for your team,” said Robbins. “It encourages an aggressive mindset and I know the guys are excited and ready to play against some of the best teams in the country.”
The conference teams were set up and divided into two pools. K-State was ranked the ninth seed in Pool A along with Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas, and West Virginia.
Each team plays four games in the pool game sessions and receives three points for a win, one point for a draw and zero for a loss. They are then rated within their pool and compete against their corresponding team from pool B in the championship round.
The Wildcats will have six competitors at Hockley, Tim Tillmanns, Will Hopkins, Luke O’Neill, Cooper Schultz, Nicklaus Mason and Ethan Miller.
Tillmanns and Hopkins, now veterans, both competed at a high level in the Big 12 Match Play Championship. The two Wildcat front-runners were an integral part of K-State’s third place finish at the 2019 event.
Two years later, the two are still playing great golf.
Tillmanns is fresh from a top 10 placement at Rich Harvest Farms when the junior shot a 5 under par 211 to secure sixth place. It was the fifth top 10 in his career. With this performance, the native of Cologne is now the average leader in the team hit with the Wildcats with 70.89.
Hopkins, the only senior for K-State, shot a 1-over-par 217 last week to finish 31st.
The biggest story of the season for the Wildcats has been the encouraging play of all their young talent.
O’Neill and Miller, along with Mason and Schultz, each added a top 20 position to their résumés this season, and all rose at times when the Wildcats needed them most. Mason tied for 12th place, O’Neill tied for fourth and Miller tied for ninth place in the Wildcat Invitational, while Schultz got his best result at the Old Town Collegiate when he tied for seventh place.
This Monday, K-State will have a great opportunity to show their low lineup against their Big 12 counterparts and Robbins is looking forward to the chance.
“Houston Oaks is a fantastic place. The staff and members there really go out of their way to make this a special experience,” said Robbins. “We are looking forward.”
The three-day tournament begins on Monday morning with pool games until Wednesday morning before the event ends with the championship round in the afternoon. Fans can follow the live scoring on Golfstat.com.