Kansas University’s women’s golf team has yet to receive an NCAA Tournament bid since the organization went to its 72-team, three-regional format back in 1992.
That figures to change this year with the Jayhawks taking a No. 39 national ranking into the 2014 Big 12 championships, Friday through Sunday at UT Golf Club in Austin, Texas.
“I would love to make history and be part of it. It’s amazing. I’m so happy,” said KU junior Minami Levonowich, who started her career at Kennesaw State in Georgia before transferring to KU in 2012.
KU is seeded fifth of the nine teams at the Big 12. At the recent SMU Invitational, the Jayhawks finished one slot ahead of No. 2-seed Oklahoma State, placing fifth of 16 teams. Last weekend, KU placed fifth of 12 teams at Ohio State’s Buckeye Invitational.
“I feel our game is just as good as all the other teams. I feel we’re going to be fine and play well,” said Levonowich, who was born in London and moved to Hilton Head, S.C., for high school.
Fifth-year KU senior Thanuttra Boonraksasat, who has been KU’s top finisher in two of five events this spring season, said it’s been a joy to see KU’s improvement in golf. The Jayhawks did reach the NCAA Tournament with an automatic bid back in 1990 for the only time in history after winning the Big Eight Conference.
“I started out here with the team ranked really low. We are coming in the right direction,” said Boonraksasat, a native of Thailand along with Thai sophomore Yupaporn Kawinpakorn — leading scorer in three of KU’s five events (tied with Boonraksasat in one event) — and freshman Pornvipa Sakdee — KU’s top finisher in one event. Senior Meghan Potee of Noblesville, Ind., won the Marilynn Smith Invitational last fall.
“I think it’s good for the people who are coming in, the recruits, and the people coming back on the team next year. It’s good for them. I’m really happy for them,” Boonraksasat added of KU’s emergence in golf.
Ninth-year KU coach Erin O’Neil likes KU’s position entering the Big 12s.
“Normally when we are going into this event we feel we have to do something off the charts to get into regionals,” O’Neil said. “This year we feel comfortable. We are in good position. We are more confident in our abilities and ready to go show everybody what we have. We’re hoping to start a new tradition of always being competitive in that championship.”