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Positivity & confidence big keys for KU women's golf at regionals

Jayhawks vying to be one of 5 teams to advance to nationals

6 min read
The Kansas women's golf team, shown here at the Ping/ASU Invitational in Arizona in late March, is competing at the Cle Elum NCAA Regional in Washington this week. [Kansas Athletics photo]

The Kansas women’s golf team has spent most of the season focusing on the same things that one of the greatest golfers to ever live has done during his career.

They call it The Tiger Five, and it’s a list of five areas in which they have to execute and avoid trouble in order to maximize their chance at success.

“Simple things that we know we can avoid,” is the way senior Hanna Hawks explains it. And included on that list are three-putts, a bogey on a par-5, a bogey with a wedge in your hand, missing an easy up-and-down or taking a penalty stroke that leads to a score worse than a double bogey.

Never will avoiding those things be more important than this week in Cle Elum, Washington, where the Jayhawks are playing at an NCAA Regional for the second year in a row and third time in program history.

The Jayhawks opened Round 1 at 11:55 a.m. Monday and finished the day in sixth place in the team standings at +6, behind the strength of Lily Hirst’s 4-under-par that put her in a second-place tie in the individual standings, one shot off the lead.

In the team standings, KU is 12 shots behind first-place Duke, but just two back of Long Beach State in fifth. Before heading west, Hawks outlined two key areas that she believed would play a huge role in whether KU cracks the top five for a spot at nationals.


After fighting for three rounds and using all six players they took to Washington with them, the Kansas Jayhawks missed out on advancing to nationals by one spot and 12 strokes, finishing in sixth place at the 12-team regional, behind Stanford, Duke, Virginia, Arizona State and San Jose State.

Junior Lily Hirst led the Jayhawks with a three-round score of +5, which put her in a tie for 13th place on the individual leaderboard. It marked her seventh Top-20 finish this season and was the third-best finish by a KU women's golfer at an NCAA Regional in program history.

Hirst, a native of Huddersfield, United Kingdom, missed out on advancing as the lone individual qualifier not on the top five teams in the field by three strokes.

After traveling as an alternate, junior Johanna Ebner played the final two rounds for the Jayhawks shooting a 76 in Round 2 and a 77 in Round 3 while filling in for senior Hanna Hawks and junior Jordan Rothman.

"I am really proud of the way we fought today," said third-year KU coach Lindsay Kuhle following Wednesday's final round. "It was another difficult day out there with the weather and course conditions. To finish that close and be the 9 seed just shows how great this team is and how competitive we are. I am proud of the fight we put up all week."

The first was preparation. She said this team has been known throughout the season for its strong prep work, both from the players and the coaching staff. So, she expected another strong week of that as they prepared to make the trip. Once they arrived, however, Hawks said it was all about having the right approach.

“We’ve had a few tough tournaments this spring,” she said. “We’ve played in really good fields, and it’s prepared us for regionals. But I think through it we really learned how much we need to feed each other positive energy because one person changes it. One person can bring it down and one person can bring it up.”

No matter how you’re playing individually or how well your round is going, Hawks said you can always impact your teammates.

“Wave when you see them, go give high-fives, go hug everybody,” she said. “Those will be the two things that carry us, just keeping that positive mindset and minimizing our mistakes when we have them because they’re out there. We can’t play perfect golf.”

In all, 10 of the 12 players on KU’s 2023-24 roster have played in the lineup for the Jayhawks this season. That speaks to the depth being developed by third-year head coach Lindsay Kuhle.

But the six players in Washington this week who will determine whether the season continues are: Hawks, the lone senior, juniors Jordan Rothman, Lily Hirst and Laurent Clark, and sophomore Amy DeKock, with junior Johana Ebner traveling as the alternate.

Here’s a quick look at each player and her current form, along with Kuhle's comments on each, as the Jayhawks entered do-or-die time on Monday.

Seeded ninth at the 12-team regional, the Jayhawks need to crack the top five to advance to the NCAA Championships later this month in Carlsbad, California.

Junior Lauren Clark

Season scoring average: 72.8
Rounds played: 30
Known for: Good short game and putter
Final card: 76-76-77 (+13)

“She’s just a gamer. If you look at how she plays when it matters most, she plays well when she needs to. That’s what I’ve been searching for on this team this entire year.”

“She loves to perform in front of an audience, she can handle it and plays well and she’s just extremely competitive.”

Sophomore Amy DeKock

Season scoring average: 71.38
Rounds played: 6
Known for: Bringing energy & a lift late in the season
Final card: 73-76-74 (+7)

“She’s probably our hardest worker on the team, which says a lot because we have a lot of them. In the weight room, over winter break, in tournaments, coachability, asking for help, going out and playing by herself, she’s just eager, passionate and excited.”

“She’s not afraid of being in the lineup and she’s not afraid of playing well in the spotlight; she’s not intimidated by it at all. She’s almost, like, waited for this opportunity and now is just rising to the occasion.”

Senior Hanna Hawks

Season scoring average: 73.52
Rounds played: 21
Known for: Poise and leadership along with consistency
Final card: 83-XX-73 (N/A)

“This is really the first year that she’s played consistently in the spring season, so she’s worked for it and is really playing her best golf at the end of her career, which is pretty cool.”

“I’ve always believed that whoever’s the captain on the team, it’s there team. And Hanna was voted a captain because she is such a great listener, has a lot of courage and is just a go-getter and really passionate about golf and KU. She’s not afraid to speak up and not afraid to take the initiative, and I think you need that in a strong female leader on any team or organization. She has that skill and she’ll always have that skill and be successful because of it.”

Junior Lily Hirst

Season scoring average: 72.23
Rounds played: 30
Known for: Ball striking & dedication to the game
Final card: 68-76-77 (+5)

“She started this spring off really well and confident and putting really well. Unfortunately, she just had two big holes the last two tournaments that kind of hurt her finish and her total score.”

“She’s competitive, appreciates the opportunity to be on a big stage like KU and at regionals. She’s never played before. So, appreciative, hard-working and I think she’s gonna have a great week because this course suits her well.”

Junior Jordan Rothman

Season scoring average: 71.83
Rounds played: 30
Known for: Competitive fire & ability to go low
Final card: 77-83-XX (N/A)

“Jordan is a big part of our team success. When Jordan’s playing well, the team will play well. And she knows that. So, there is some pressure to that, but she’s a great grinder and scorer. It comes down to belief and confidence and commitment.”

“We need her. And we’ve told her that. We need her to step up and play her game for us to make it.”

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