Chances are if you were looking into a crowd of people you wouldn’t notice Gardner-Webb senior Kristopher Gray. It’s not because he isn’t noticeable, it’s because it’s hard for him to stick out.
At 5-foot-8 and 130 pounds, Gray has waited all his life for a growth spurt that hasn’t come. Despite his measurements, Gray found a way to win twice this fall for the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
To close out the fall, Gray captured back-to-back tournaments at the Donald Ross Intercollegiate and Hummingbird Intercollegiate. Two wins, according to his coach, that were the benefits of putting in hard work.
“He puts in more work than most because he has to,” Gardner-Webb coach Tee Burton said. “I try to tell guys it’s not how far you hit it that matters, but what gets it in the hole the quickest.”
Gray averages only 250-260 yards off the tee. Because of his lack of length with the big stick, he has to concentrate more on his short game – especially his wedges.
“I know I won’t lead a tournament with the most birdies very often,” Gray said. “I do know, though, that I’ll be one of the guys that has the least amount of bogeys or worse, though.”
Both Gray and Burton agree that his ability to get up-and-down from around the greens, along with his wedge game from 100 yards in, is what keeps him in position to contend.
Over the past four years, Gray has put in extra time in the weight room – as well as dining halls – in an attempt to get bigger. Adding weight to his small frame was a goal of his when he arrived on campus as a freshman, but it has been a challenge for all four years.
“I’ve tried getting bigger with protein and lifting weights for quite some time,” Gray explained. “For whatever reason, the weight just doesn’t want to add on.”
Gray says that growing up as a junior, people always told him he’d grow soon or that he shouldn’t worry because people keep growing until age 21. Now, at 22, he has accepted the fact that the bigger frame he had hoped for just isn’t going to happen.
“Watching a senior like Kristopher play golf is a nice thing,” Burton said. “He’s a senior that knows his game and knows what he’s doing, whereas a freshman can often look around and just get into trouble.”
During Gray’s career at Gardner-Webb, the team has yet to make it to the postseason. This year, Gray is hoping to get the chance to compete at NCAA regionals with his team, but he knows that they will have to beat Coastal Carolina and Liberty – the 30th-ranked team in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
All his life, Gray was told he was too small to keep up with the “big boys,” yet the senior never gave up. He continued to work on what he could control and did everything he could to perfect it. Entering the spring, the Gardner-Webb senior is riding a two-tournament winning streak, but the “little” guy who people doubted is hoping to continue and contribute in a big way for the Runnin’ Bulldogs.