Wichita State coach Grier Jones says even Hunter Sparks doesn’t know how good he can become.
That’s a scary thought to consider.
Sparks, a junior, has won twice this fall while making his school relevant in the rankings. He won the Kansas Amateur last July. He finished third in the Oklahoma Open last August.
And Jones still feels as though there is some untapped potential, even now.
“Is he working hard enough? No,” the coach said. “But then again, my wife tells me my idea of working at it is different than everybody else’s.”
Fair enough. But Sparks’ evolution as a player mirrors that of the entire Wichita State team. In fall 2010, the Shockers struggled through what was perhaps the worst fall they’ve ever had under Jones. That’s a span of 16 years. “They all had the ability,” Jones said, “but they were just going along at a leisurely pace.”
Though the Shockers quickened their stride last spring, they finished the season ranked outside the top 100 (No. 115). For whatever reason – not even Jones knows – they rededicated themselves this year, opening the fall season with back-to-back wins, and they haven’t finished outside the top 3 in four starts. Their success has manifested itself in other ways, too – they are now No. 22 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.
And during this stretch, no Wichita State player performed like Sparks. He shared medalist honors at the season-opener (with a teammate), was within striking distance before the Attack of the Bees the following week, tied for seventh at VCU and then, in the final event of the fall, shot 68-65-66 to top the field at the Herb Wimberly.
“Golf’s a game of streaks,” Jones said. “I’m sure he wishes that the fall didn’t end.”
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Top of the class: Wichita State
Best player this fall: Hunter Sparks, Wichita State
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2007: Illinois State
2008: Wichita State
2009: Wichita State
2010: Wichita State
2011: Wichita State
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Wondering how your favorite conference is shaping up headed into the spring season? Who is our favorite to pick up the automatic qualifier? Check out our conference-by-conference break down with our complete coverage page here.
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