The Kansas Jayhawks are mostly known for their powerhouse men’s basketball team, but the women’s golf team made a good case in the fall for becoming the school’s next driving force.
The team did something that no Kansas women’s golf team has done in two decades: win back-to-back team titles. The Jayhawks won their own Marilynn Smith Sunflower Invitational and the Price’s “Give ‘Em Five” Intercollegiate hosted by New Mexico State.
At the Sunflower Invitational, the women claimed their fourth tournament victory in eight years, placing three players in the top 10 to win the team title by 21 strokes over Arkansas State.
In Las Cruces, N.M., for the Price’s “Give ‘Em Five” Intercollegiate, Kansas shot a three-round, school-record 871 to win by 10 strokes. KU’s previous three-round record was 874, in the spring of 2007.
“At our home tournament we went into the last day with a lead, so I think that was good preparation for being in the same situation this week,” head coach Erin O’Neil said after the second victory. “They were definitely more comfortable with the belief that they could win it.”
The main reason for the team’s success has been freshman Yupaporn “Mook” Kawinpakorn of Samutprakan, Thailand. She won her first individual title in Las Cruces, taking the title by three shots in wire-to-wire fashion. It was the first individual title for a KU golfer since 2010, and it was lowest three-round total by a Kansas women’s golfer since 2005.
“It has been two years since I won a tournament, so this is a great feeling,” Kawinpakorn said in October. “I hit my driver really, really well this week and gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities. I had a lot of energy.”
Another Thai, junior Thanuttra Boonraksasat, had four top-10 finishes for the Jayhawks this fall, including a runner-up at the Sunflower Invitational. Kansas finished the fall No. 62 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
The Jayhawks start their spring season at the Florida State Match-Up on Feb. 15-17 at Tallahassee. In the meantime, they are doing what all other golf teams do during the offseason to get ready and hit the ground running in the spring: practice and work out.
Time to move over, basketball. There’s a new sports power in town.