By Tom Keegan
For members of the University of Kansas men’s golf team, from this century and last, 2018 has been a stupendous year.
Gary Woodland, 34, won his third PGA Tour event, led a major for two days, and had his highest finish in a major.
Chris Thompson, 42, earned his first PGA Tour card with a kick to the finish line of the Web.com Tour regular season reminiscent of Jim Ryun closing out a mile run.
Ryan Vermeer, 40, won the prestigious PGA Professional Championship.
The KU team advanced to the finals of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2000.
Here’s a look at key 2018 dates involving KU men’s golfers, past and present:
February 4: Woodland wins his third PGA Tour event, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, maintaining his focus amid the tour’s rowdiest atmosphere. Woodland shoots 64 on Sunday, carding birdies on the 15th, 16th and 17th holes. Chez Reavie birdies the final two holes to force a playoff as Woodland warms up on the range. Woodland makes par on the first playoff hole, and Reavie misses a 10-foot par putt.
On the same day, Chris Thompson, who had qualified for the Web.com Tour for the second time (the first in 2007 when it was called the Nationwide) needed to do well in his first eight events to maintain exempt status. Thompson finishes tied for seventh to earn enough money to ensure he would qualify for the remainder of the Web.com schedule, and then watches Woodland win the playoff from his hotel room in Panama.
March 4: The Kansas golf team wins the Desert Mountain Intercollegiate with a score of 11 under at the Desert Mountain Outlaw Course in Scottsdale, Ariz., finishing 21 strokes ahead of Big Ten schools Purdue and Michigan in the 12-team field. All five Jayhawks — Andy Spencer, Charlie Hillier, Daniel Hudson, Harry Hillier and Daniel Sutton —finish in the top 20.
May 16: The Kansas men’s golf team qualifies for the NCAA Championship finals for the first time since 2000 by winning the Pacific Regional at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton, Calif.
All five players finish under par: Spencer (-8), Sutton (-5), Charlie Hillier (-2), Harry Hillier and Hudson (-1).
On the same day, 2,600 miles to the east at Thorndale Club in in Greer, S.C., Thompson plays in the pro-am portion of the BMW Charity Pro-Am. Thompson takes note of the sharp eye for reading putts and compatible demeanor of his amateur playing partner’s caddie, Chevy Hartzog, 25, a former college player and assistant coach interested in becoming a touring professional caddie. Thompson asks him if he would be interested in looping for him when the tour comes to the midwest in June.
May 27: The Jayhawks move up six spots to 23rd among 30 schools on the final day of the season, failing to advance to match play of the NCAA Championship. Daniel Sutton, KU’s top medalist at the finals, misses continuing as an individual on a tiebreaker after failing to get the birdie he needs on No. 18 at Karsten Creek.
June 3: Chase Hanna, 2017 Big 12 Champion, fires a 65 in the final round to finish tied for sixth in the Quito Open, a LatinoAmerica Tour event in Quito, Ecuador.
June 6: Rising sophomore Ben Sigel wins the North Star Open, the signature event of the North Star Tour in Minnesota. Sigel finishes 3 under in two rounds and in order to maintain amateur status is not eligible to accept the $10,000 prize.
June 14: Spencer edges golf great Tom Watson to win the Watson Challenge at Shadow Glen.
June 20: Vermeer, 40, director of golf at Happy Hollow Club in his native Omaha, wins the PGA Professional Championship, at Bayonet Course in Seaside, Calif. A two-time All-American at Kansas, Vermeer wins the prestigious Walter Hagen Cup, $55,000, a spot in the PGA Championship, and starts in six PGA Tour events on the 2018-19 calendar.
June 21: In the first round of the Wichita Open, Hartzog starts his new job as Thompson’s caddie. Thompson ranks 60th on the money list heading into the tournament. Hartzog has been on Thompson’s bag every round since.
July 16: Spencer qualifies for U.S. Amateur after covering 36 holes at Milburn Country Club in 133 strokes.
July 23: Sigel continues his hot summer by qualifying for the U.S. Amateur with a two-round score of 143 in two rounds at Olympic Hills in Eden Prairie, Minn.
July 25: Hudson, Sutton and Charlie Hillier are named to the Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-America Scholars by the Golf Coaches Association of America.
August 9: Playing on Zoysia fairways similar to those of his youth and making everything in sight with his putter, Woodland takes the first-round lead of the PGA Championship with a 64 at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, one stroke ahead of Rickie Fowler. Woodland makes 152 feet, 5 inches worth of putts, a personal high.
August 10: Woodland sets the two-day record for the PGA Championship with a 10 under, 130, one stroke ahead of Kevin Kisner.
Aug. 12: Woodland plays the final round of the PGA with Tiger Woods and shows remarkable powers of concentration in blocking out all the Tiger love, noise that spilled into Woodland’s swings, to shoot 69, despite consistently leaving putts short. He ties for sixth, his highest finish in a major.
Fellow native Kansan Thompson, from Independence, caps a remarkable three-week with a solo third finish in the Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae in Hayward, Calif., with a 64. The hot streak started with Thompson finishing tied for third in the Price Cutter Charity in Springfield, Mo., and continued with him finishing tied for fourth in Overland Park in the KC Golf Classic. Throughout the greatest stretch of golf in his life, Thompson credits Hartzog with doing a great job reading putts for him. The third-place finish launches him to 19th on the Web.com Tour money list with one week remaining in the regular season.
Aug. 19: Thompson, a two-time All-American at Kansas, is presented his first PGA Tour card in a ceremony that takes place after completion of the WinCo Foods Portland Open. He finishes 20th on the money list, known as “The 25,” because the top 25 are promoted to the PGA Tour. At 42, Thompson will be the PGA Tour’s oldest rookie in the 2018-19 season.