GOLF AND NATIONAL TOURNAMENTS GO HAND-IN-HAND AT KCKCC

GOLF AND NATIONAL TOURNAMENTS GO HAND-IN-HAND AT KCKCC

GOLF AND NATIONAL TOURNAMENTS GO HAND-IN-HAND AT KCKCC

 

            Golf and national tournament appearances go hand-in-hand at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

            Since 1980, Blue Devil teams have competed in 20 national tournaments at the Division I level and in the earlier years finished first, second and third in successive national tournaments. .

            The highlight came in 1985 when sophomore Robert Russell won the National Championship in one of the most dramatic finishes in NJCAA history. The third round leader by two shots, Russell was one shot going into the final hole. A par 5 over water, Russell's 242-yard 3-iron cleared the water and a bunker, stopping on the fringe 15-feet from the hole.

            "A couple of feet from the hole I knew it was in," said Russell as he became the only golfer ever to win the NJCAA national title with an eagle on the final hole. Coach Frank Bigham called Russell's finish "incredible. I don't care what tournament it is, if you make eagle to win, that's something, What a putt, what a finish!"

            A first team All-American and a two-time Jayhawk champion, Russell's championship helped KCKCC finish sixth in the nation, a remarkable finish considering the Blue Devils were competing almost exclusively against Sunbelt teams.

            Golf got its start under coach Iden Reese in 1936. In Reese's 32 years as head coach, KCKCC won the national championship in 1949. placed second in 1948 and third in 1950. His teams also won 22 conference championships, 13 in the Kansas State Junior College Championships and 13 in the Interstate Conference.

            Frank Bigham continued KCKCC's dynasty, dominating the decade of the 90's like no other. Winning eight Region VI championships and competing in the national tournament seven of eight years, he was named Region VI coach of the year nine times.

            Taking over the coaching reins in 2000, Gary Shrader won the Region VI title in 2005 and finished second in 2006 while taking seven teams to the national championship.

            Russell was KCKCC's second first team All-American, Mike Sheppard was a first team selection in 1975 and second team in 1976 while Rich Volding (1978), Chip DeMoss (1981) and Justin Stroud (1993) received honorable mention All-American honors.

            Each year, KCKCC's hosts the Blue Devil Classic at famed Dub's Dread Golf Club, once called by Golf Digest the longest (8,101 yards) and toughest course in America. The Blue Devils also practiced at two other top notch courses, Sunflower Hills and Falcon Lakes.