Sophomore Bearkat golfer Klein Klotz and his teammates are looking forward to the first two weeks of October.
That's when the Sam Houston men's and women's golf teams have their only opportunity of the season to play in front of their home fans.
The rest of the season the team travels across the country to Mississippi, Wisconsin, New Mexico and California and Texas sites as far apart as Laredo and McKinney.
First, both the men and the women host the Harold Funston Invitational Monday and Tuesday, October 6-7, at Raven Nest Golf Club in Huntsville. Then Sam Houston and Rice men’s teams will co-host the Miramont Classic in Bryan, October 13-14.
“We’re really excited about playing both at Raven’s Nest and Miramont,” Klotz said. “It’s great to play courses we’re more familiar with. It’s a big advantage.”
Klotz and his teammates Zach Cabra, Albert Miner, Logan Boatner and Andrew Johnson made Sam Houston golf history last spring.
First the quintet brought home the Kats’ first Southland Conference men’s golf championship since 1994. Then, the five made the program’s first NCAA regional tournament team appearance, playing at Auburn, Alabama.
Competing against a 14-team field that included five top 25-ranked squads, the Bearkats finished just five strokes away from earning a berth in the NCAA Division I national finals.
“It was awesome to win conference,” Klotz said. “We talked about it all year, but for it to actually happen, that was pretty awesome. Then, to go on to the NCAA regionals was huge.”
Klotz’s individual performance as a freshman at the Auburn regional also was impressive.
On the tournament’s final day, Klotz posted the low round of the event with a six-under 66. The score was one of only 12 sub-par rounds during all 54 holes of the regional on the tough Auburn Country Club course. Klotz’s 76-71-66—213 put him just four strokes away from earning an individual berth at nationals.
“Actually, I felt I played the same all three days,” Klotz said. “But each day I executed the game plan a little better. That resulted in a good round and a good finish on the last day.”
A look two years back shows what progress the Sam Houston men’s golf team has made. In 2012, the Bearkats finished seventh in the Southland Conference.
Flash forward to May, 2014, and the SHSU golfers were holding up a league championship trophy and making their first NCAA Regional appearance as a team in 27 years of Division I competition.
Senior All-Southland Albert Miner is the only player not returning for 2014-15 for the Bearkat men. The team is joined by J. T. Taylor, a 2012-13 letter winner who red-shirted last year; transfer Andrew Ertel and several top freshmen recruits.
“Coming so close to going to NCAA nationals last May really has motivated the team for this season,” Klotz said. “Last year, if you told us that we would get that close to going to nationals, I would have said you were lying. It felt so far away and almost unreachable. But, this year, we feel like we can do it. It’s there for us to accomplish, especially since this year we’re better as a team overall.”
Klotz was an honorable mention All-Southland Conference selection as a freshman in 2013-14. He produced four top 10 individual finishes and placed sixth at the Kansas State Jim Colbert tournament, helping lead the Bearkats to a team title in the event.
“The hardest adjustment for me from high school to college golf was getting used to having to play really well every round to get a top finish,” Klotz said. “In high school, I could not be at the top of my game and still be pretty good on the leader board and be ranked high. Learning to balance studying and tests and being on the road for golf tournament was a challenge as well.”
Klotz was a three-time all-state and four-time all-district honoree at Lake Travis High School in Austin. He was a two-time Class 4A state individual runner-up and played on three state championship teams.
Strong Sam Houston family background helped lead Klotz to the Huntsville campus. Both his grandparents and his great grandparents and his grandfather’s sister were Bearkats.
“I was pretty close to going to Baylor and Texas Tech and also looked at Illinois,” Klotz said. “The Sam door just opened. That was right when coach (Brandt) Kieschnick got the head coaching job here. I visited and the rest is history. I committed to Sam Houston the weekend I visited.”
Kieschnick, a former All-Southland Conference golfer, begins his third season as the Bearkats’ head golf coach. He has high praise for his sophomore student-athlete.
“Klein is a leader on the course and off,” Kieschnick said. “Winning the Southland and earning NCAA berths is the plan. I knew we would get good players in here that could perform at a high level. It’s a pleasure to work with the outstanding young men on our team this year.”
Klotz points to the relationship he has with his teammates as a real joy of life at Sam Houston.
“We all are really close,” Klotz said. “We’re always hanging out together. It’s not just golf. We go to the football, soccer and volleyball games. We even stopped on the way to our first tournament in Mississippi to watch the football team play at LSU. Everyone on the team works to build up each other.”
A marketing major, Klotz looks to try professional golf after graduation from Sam Houston State.
“I want to see how it works,” Klotz said. “I’ll do qualifying school and some things like that. We’ try some different tours around the country and outside the country. We’ll see what happens.”
There will be no admission charge to the Harold Funston Invitational at Raven Nest October 6-7. Both the men and women will begin play Monday with an 8 a.m. shot gun start. The tournament will consist of 36 holes of play on Monday and the final 18 on Tuesday.