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Will King on the NCAA championship, school and golf balance, and what's next

From underdog to NCAA standout, Will King defies expectations, winning his first collegiate tournament and balancing a 4.0 GPA—all in his sophomore year.

3 min read
Will King notched his first NCAA victory at the Gopher Invitational with two runs in the 60s and a final round 71. [Kansas Athletics photo]

KU men’s golf coach Jamie Bermel had his eye on Will King for a couple of years before he joined the Jayhawks roster.

Though Bermel knew King had talent and would continue to get better and better, he did not originally anticipate the stellar first year King would have with the Jayhawks.

Setting the bar low certainly won’t be the case going forward, after King was the lone KU men’s golfer to punch a ticket to the NCAA championship last year and, now, already has picked up a tournament victory two tournaments into the 2023-24 season.

King won the Gopher Invitational earlier this month with two rounds in the 60s and a final-round 71. It marked the first win of his collegiate career and came on the heels of a 71st-place finish, with three rounds in the 70s, at the season’s opening event the week before.

Though impressive, the road to King’s NCAA tourney berth last season certainly wasn’t an easy one. During his stellar freshman year, King competed in all 12 events and finished top-20 in his collegiate debut. At regionals, King had to earn his spot through a 6- or 7-hour day of golf, and a grueling sudden-death playoff match that went on for eight holes.

“He was going against a fifth-year grad transfer kid from Ole Miss who was good and made some clutch putts,” Bermel told R1S1 Sports while reflecting on last season. “Finally, the kid made a mistake and Will capitalized on that. Lo and behold, he was the winner and moved on to the national tournament.”

During the day, it became clear that the Jayhawks wouldn’t be able to advance as a team, but the possibility for King to snag the only automatic qualifying spot for an individual golfer loomed throughout.

“My teammates have all been great supporters of me and they've‌ made me feel very included and very welcome,” the KU sophomore told R1S1. “That all kind of built up to help me feel comfortable in that position.”

King had been a Jayhawk at heart long before joining the team last year. Growing up in nearby Olathe, King has been a KU sports fan his entire life.

“It was pretty easy for me to pick KU once I took my visit,” he said. “And knowing that I was a fan of their sports programs already, I thought it was pretty cool that I could represent my home state and a school that I already loved.”

Before taking golf seriously, King also played soccer and basketball. Golf ultimately became his favorite, but the team aspect of those sports helped King with the transition to team golf at KU.

“Being in a competitive environment helps you ‌with golf,” King said. “So, just being in those games helped me with my mindset with golf. It helps you focus more on what you can do that will be what’s best for the team.”

Aside from excelling on the course, King upheld a 4.0 GPA during his first year of college, while majoring in business on a pre-med track.

“He’s a master of time management,” Bermel said. “I think it scared some teams away in the recruiting process because he wants to be a doctor. I’ve always embraced that. I can’t tell a kid what he wants to do. Is it gonna be hard? Yes, it’s gonna be really hard. But can you do it? Yes.”

For King, school was always going to be important. This attitude allowed him to think about golf differently, and learn to enjoy the game even more.

A master in time management, according to his coach, Will King has balanced a 4.0 GPA while setting an equally high bar on the golf course. [Kansas Athletics photo]

“It’s pretty easy to kind of get behind in school, especially when you’re trying to play good golf,” he said. “I try to think of golf as‌ my escape from class, which helped me bring more joy to golf while still making time for school. And that’s why I’m here in the first place, to get‌ an education.”

With his second season now in full swing, King said he was confident the Jayhawks were prepared and had the talent to make it to regionals and nationals this year—a sentiment shared by Bermel.

“Our goal is the same as it’s been every year: We’re searching for greatness,” Bermel said. “We’re trying to win every tournament. We’re trying to compete at the highest levels. Our goal is to get prepared every week. I think the guys look pretty good. And I think they’re ready to compete.”

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