Kansas State University

K-State golfers motivated to win as individuals at NCAA championship after team snub

K-State’s Jacob Eklund competes during the Tiger Invitational at The Club at Old Hawthorne in Columbia, Missouri on April 8, 2019.
K-State’s Jacob Eklund competes during the Tiger Invitational at The Club at Old Hawthorne in Columbia, Missouri on April 8, 2019.

Grant Robbins is still upset.

More than a week has passed since the Kansas State golf team learned it was left out of the NCAA championship, but it feels like less than a day for the Wildcats’ coach.

“It stings,” Robbins said. “It stings a lot ... That was really disappointing for the seniors. They have worked really hard and had this goal ever since they’ve been here to get there and be the team that turns this thing around. They wanted to be the first team to get to a (NCAA) Regional in a while and they came so close. It’s bittersweet.”

The bitter part: K-State was the first team left out of the field.

The sweet part: Three K-State golfers were chosen to participate as individuals, one short of the number needed to post a team score.

Jeremy Gandon, Roland Massimino and Jacob Eklund will all tee it up at a NCAA Regional in Athens, Georgia on Monday. If any of them finish the 54-hole event as the top individual outside of the top five teams they will advance to the national tournament.

“We definitely have a lot to prove,” Eklund, a junior from Carbondale, Illinois, said. “I feel like a lot of people feel like we should have made it as a team. I have had a lot of people reach out and say we should have made it as a team. If all three of us go there and play well it will show that we deserved a bid. We’re going to get in there and just play our game and play well.”

All three K-State golfers have a realistic opportunity to qualify for the national tournament.

Gandon, a senior from France, has won four college tournaments and claimed medalist honors at last year’s Big 12 Tournament. He also advanced to a NCAA Regional last year.

But it’s Massimino that enters the NCAA Regional as the top-seeded individual. His season-long scoring average of 70.96 is the lowest in school history.

When Gandon is hot, he goes low. His best rounds are better than anyone else’s on the team.

“All three of them have shown that they can play with the best teams in the country,” Robbins said. “Jeremy has got the experience ... Roland has really stepped up this year and been really consistent. Same with Jake. Jake has got the ability to go low. They have all got the ability. Going in as individuals takes a little different mindset. You don’t have the pressure of the team and just kind of go play for yourself. I think they have got a good shot.”

Their best golf has come over the past few months. Golfweek ranked K-State at No. 31 nationally in its spring-only rankings.

“They feel slighted,” Robbins said. “I think they’re upset. What’s frustrating about is, at the end of the year, we felt we were one of the best teams. Not just to get into the tournament but to advance.”

Motivation will be easy.

“We deserved to get there,” Massimino said. “We were one of the best teams. To go out there and play well and prove that we belong is important to us.”

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