Photo courtesy of kwucoyotes.com
KWU sports information
Coleman Houk enters the 2023 spring golf season with high hopes for his Kansas Wesleyan golf teams and he’s not alone.
Coyote men and women soon attracted national attention. The men’s team is ranked #20 in the NAIA, and the women’s are among the teams receiving votes in their poll.
Both teams are coming off successful fall seasons. Each won the Kansas Conference match-play tournament in October and finished as runners-up in the Central Plains Invitational at Salina Country Club in October. The women also won the Evangel Invitational, their last event of the fall season.
The KWU men start play Monday and Tuesday at the Las Vegas Shootout, while the women start February 27-28 at the Legends Showdown in Myrtle Beach. sc
MEN’S TEAMThe Coyotes feature a deep and talented lineup led by Jackson Malone (FR/Frisco, Texas). He is the top-ranking freshman in the country after winning the Central Plains Invitational and placing in the top 10 in three other fall events.
“Being the number one freshman in the country is no small feat and he seems to be picking up pace at the right time as we get going,” said Houk, a former star player at KWU and in his third season as head coach.
The No. 2 player in the lineup is Trevor Watson (JR/Coffeyville, Kan.), who is continuing Watson’s legacy at KWU after his brother Troy’s sensational career.
“He’s pretty much going toe-to-toe with where Troy was in his progression in regards to scoring average and ability and that sort of thing,” Houk said. “I expect great things from him when we start.”
Third in the lineup is veteran Ethan Vikander (JR/Aberdeen, SD), who is finally healthy this spring.
“He was always close to that bag two, three trying to bust,” Houk said. “He’s been battling a few shoulder injuries over the last year and a half, but I think he’s finally going to be fueled up this semester, so I’m excited to see what that means for him.”
Landon Berquist (JR/Lawrence, Kan.) and Tyler Tarvin (SO/North Richland Hills, Texas) complete training for the trip to Las Vegas.
“Landon has been in the top five for four years,” Houk said. “Looking to finish his season strong, he’s put in more work this offseason than any other year in the past. Tyler is the other youngster in the top five. Lots of raw talent out there and excited to see what he can do this semester.”
Three others will contend for the four-five spots in the lineup throughout the spring: Adam Vigors, Nolan De Los Santos (FR/Lancaster, Texas) and Matthew Freriks (SR/Stinnett, Texas).
“Matthew has obviously been around for four or five years,” Houk said. “He’s kind of in and out of the top five, but he’s also had a great offseason, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him make an appearance for him.”
Houk likes where the team is coming out of the winter months.
“Obviously, there’s a bit of a learning curve when we get hit with winter weather, but I feel like more than any other off-season we’ve gotten out or worked in a little bit more,” she said. “I think our level of confidence is high within the conference, but it would be nice to make a statement nationwide early this spring.”
Houk said Friends will be a team to watch in the KCAC this spring with Sterling and Bethany also in contention.
“They have a great coach over there and have leaned more towards the international route,” said Friends’ Houk. “Very talented team, they are very young. This is the team we want to stay ahead of. Sterling and Bethany will be as good as ever.”
WOMEN’S TEAMAs good as the men at KWU are, Houk says the women’s team could be special.
“I’d say they’re hotter than the outgoing men’s team,” he said. “They have won the last two events of the fall and of course that will build a lot of confidence. I know for sure that they have worked harder this off-season than any previous season in the last eight years. I have been really pleased with what I have seen from them. this offseason.”
Abby Donovan (SO/Concordia, Kan.) leads the lineup after a strong fall season.
“She came strong in match-play and won that event and finished strong in the last event as well,” Houk said. “She’s also made some great strides this offseason, it’s really exciting to see what she does.”
Houk expects a strong spring season from Aiden Richmond, who is No. 2 for KWU.
“It’s been more than three, four or five bags in the past and now we’re looking for it to be one of our best if not our best on any given day,” he said. “How much she’s improved from last year to this year is incredible, I think it’s about four or five shots different. It’s been fun to watch her grow.”
Hannah Hart (JR/Ventura, California) was third and finished the crash on a high note by winning the Evangel event.
“Her confidence is always high, but I feel like it’s really high this semester and I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see her go all the way up to that stock position a few times,” Houk said.
Corey Mein (SR/Liberal, Kan.) is the fourth player and has shown significant improvement.
“Corey is playing better than he’s ever played,” Houk said. “We started training this spring and she was hitting scores about four or five shots lower than expected. So far this semester she’s been really great.
The fifth golfer is newcomer Chaney Littell (FR/Winfield, Kan.).
“He had a fantastic first half, averaging just over 80 but has the potential to go under 75 on any given day,” Houk said. “And she has seven semesters of college golf, so she’s exciting.”
Thalia Ramirez (JR/Olathe, Kan.) will also be a factor after showing dramatic improvement.
“Probably the most improved golfer on our men’s or women’s roster,” Houk said. “I think she’s averaging about 10 strokes better this year than last year. She really put her golf into it last summer and it’s exciting to see where she is.”
Houk said the women’s team is reaping the fruits of its offseason labor.
“I truly believe that we have outperformed every other team in the conference over the last three months,” he said. “I think coupled with that confidence that comes with fall it’s going to be huge for them this spring.”
The women’s race in the KCAC will feature the usual suspects, Houk said.
“I think it’s about six years in a row that we or Bethany have won,” she said. “We got them in match-play, they got us in the early fall. That’s why we thought we had to work. We don’t want to make it interesting; we want it to be known enough that if someone wants to hit us, something crazy has to happen.”