MANHATTAN, Kan. (Kansas State Athletics) – The Kansas State men’s golf team, led by individual champion Cooper Schultz, didn’t let up in Tuesday’s final round of the Wildcat Invitational as the Cats closed out the season opener with another strong 18 holes to win the team championship.
K-State took advantage of its familiarity with the par-72, 7,525-yard Colbert Hills Golf Club as it put together a scorching 54-hole tally of 27-under par 837 after the finishing touches of its 2-under par 286 final round.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” said head coach Grant Robbins, who has now led the Wildcats to three team championships and first since the Husker Invitational in 2021. “They did a great job today playing with a lot of poise. It wasn’t perfect by any means. It was kind of an up-and-down round. The course was set up tougher than it was yesterday, so we had to deal with some adversity. I thought they just held it together really well.”
The performance was dominating throughout all three rounds as all five members of the Wildcat scoring lineup — Schultz, Will Hopkins, Grayson Blunt, Luke O’Neill and Laurenz Schiergen — finished in the top 15.
It was a battle between multiple Cats for the individual crown down the stretch, but Schultz showed off his clutch gene with a crucial birdie on his final hole to clinch his first-career title. Schultz finished at 11-under par 205 following a 4-under par 68 final round.
“It obviously feels really good,” said Schultz. “I’ve been working really hard the past couple of weeks for this tournament. Coming in, it was really my strategy that pushed me over the edge. Obviously, I hit the ball and putted well, but I also had a great strategy coming in that pushed me forward.”
As for that 18th hole birdie, Schultz said it was all due to his preparation.
“I just hit a good one. I had a good drive,” said Schultz. “Then I had about 60 yards, and I’ve been practicing those wedge shots lately. I’ve been really dialed into my wedges lately, had a perfect number and just hit it right under the hole. I hit it right where I wanted it to be and then obviously had a good putt.”
For Robbins, he wasn’t surprised by the sophomore’s performance.
“We knew he was capable. He’s won a lot before,” said Robbins. “He’s won the Kansas Amateur and been a two-time participant in the US Amateur. So, he’s been on the big stage before, and I knew he was going to play well today.”
Just behind Schultz in second place was Hopkins, who finished at 10-under par 206 following a 2-under par 70 third round.
It was another incredible performance for the senior who now has four career top-five finishes.
Joining those two at the top of the leaderboard was Nicklaus Mason, who was competing as an individual. Mason also shot a 2-under par 70 final round to bring his score to 9-under par 207. This is the second career top-five finish for the Shawnee, Kansas product and a sign of more to come for the second year golfer.
“It was neat to see three or four guys fighting down the stretch with the chance to win, and you don’t really have a rooting interest. You’re wanting all of them to win and just watching them fight it out is kind of fun as a coach,” said Robbins.
Tim Tillmanns, also competing as an individual, moved up 12 spots with a 3-under par 69 third round to tie for sixth place at 3-under par 213.
Blunt finished his Wildcat debut in a tie for eighth place at 2-under par 214 after a 2-over par 74 final round. His performance was highlighted by the 6-under par 66 second round that he carded on Monday.
Rounding up the K-State scoring lineup was O’Neill and Schiergen finishing in a tie for 13th place at 1-over par 217.
O’Neill shot 2-over par 74 on Tuesday to record his seventh career top-20 finish, while Schiergen carded a 4-over par 76 final round to earn his fourth career top-20 finish.
Ben Stoller, a freshman also playing as an individual, tied for 24th place after registering a 6-over par 78 third round.
The high expectations that Kansas State entered the tournament and the season with were met through the opener, but Robbins and Schultz know this is just the beginning.
“Hopefully this gives us a boost of confidence, but as I just told them right now, it was great event, but we’ve got to keep getting better and keep competing with each other,” said Robbins.
“It proves how low we can actually go,” said Schultz. “And it gives us momentum that I think is really going to help us in the long run.”
The Wildcats will have a week off before returning to action September 26-27 at the Old Town Collegiate in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This will be the second of four events on the fall schedule.