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Kansas State Collegian

Kansas State Collegian

The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

Women’s golf has ‘set the standard’ ahead of Big 12 Championship

Checking in on the state of women’s golf ahead of the postseason
Avery Johnson
Sophomore Noa van Beek works on her putting at a Colbert Hills practice in the fall. Van Beek and her teammates have climbed to a national ranking of No. 55 under first-year head coach Stew Burke.

As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas, and that applies to Kansas State women’s golf’s expectations as it heads south to the Big 12 Championship at Houston Oaks.

This time last year, the Wildcats placed dead last in the conference championship. After a strong first year under head coach Stew Burke, the aura surrounding the 2024 team is different. 

“We’re way ahead of where I thought we would be,” Burke said. “That’s really cool to have a chance to go into the Big 12 [Championship] and be really competitive.”

The Wildcats climbed to No. 55 nationally this season, placing it alongside conference foes as the Big 12 has 11 of 13 teams in the top 60.

Burke said he heard several plaudits from coaches around the league, telling him they’ve caught onto the Wildcats’ ascension this year. Despite rising expectations and tough competition, the team isn’t rattled.

“There’s no pressure, we’re going to put a really good plan together and we’re going to stick to [it],” Burke said. “Wherever we fall at the end of the week, as long as we stick with the plan I’m going to be really happy with that.”

K-State has the chance to springboard its status even further at the championship, as a dominant weekend could launch the Wildcats into the NCAA tournament.

Burke said the “desire to keep the season going” will be huge for the Wildcats, citing only two Wildcats — junior Carla Bernat and senior Haley Vargas — have competed on the NCAA tournament stage.

The Wildcats prepared themselves for this late push all season.

“The teams we’ve been competing against are perennial, regional national teams,” Burke said. “All spring, they’ve hung in there with them and they’ve beaten a lot of good teams. … They do belong at this level.”

Whether the Wildcats advance to the national stage as a team or not, Burke’s first season will go down as a success.

K-State has three individual titles for the first time since 2017-18. The team’s scoring average of 290.44 per round would beat the school record by nearly seven shots, but the team needs five more rounds to qualify. Furthermore, the team’s average leaderboard placing of 6.11 is the best in a regular season since 5.7 during the 2016-17 season.

While the accolades are a fitting summary of Burke’s first season, he sees them as just a benchmark.

“We’re setting a standard now,” Burke said. “We’re setting a standard that we want to achieve and surpass every single year. Breaking records is cool, but records are there to be broken.”

Burke attributes the rapid elevation of the program to his “incredibly talented group,” while appreciating the strong foundation established by former longtime coach Kristi Knight.

“I think the hardest part about coming into a new program is having people buy into your ideas,” Burke said. “There was also a really good culture established; the girls were all friendly with one another. They were willing to work hard, they were ready for a change. And I’m sure that made it a lot easier for me.”

After the Big 12 Championship wraps up Saturday, the NCAA selection show will take place at 1 p.m. Wednesday on the Golf Channel.

Should the Wildcats hear its name called or not, the future of women’s golf is bright in Manhattan. As Burke said, “Today’s achievements are tomorrow’s expectations.”

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About the Contributor
Avery Johnson
Avery Johnson, multimedia editor
Multimedia editor for 2023-24. Previously photographer for spring 2023.
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