By Adam Sullivan
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
For fans that have followed the golf program at the University of Kansas over the years, one name likely sticks out. Gary Woodland, according to most people around the KU program, is the top golfer to come out of the Jayhawk program when he left campus in 2007. He’s currently one of the top golfers in the Professional Golf Association, capturing two PGA Tour wins in his career. Woodland, a Topeka, Kan., native shined athletically as a kid not just on the greens, but on the hardwood as well. He led Shawnee Heights High School to a state championship in 2002. Woodland then accepted a basketball scholarship to Washburn University before transferring to KU on a golf scholarship.
Fast-forward seven years and KU freshman Chase Hanna is following in Woodland’s footsteps. A Kansas native like Woodland, Hanna who is from Leawood, Kan., also starred in high school in both golf and basketball. Hanna led Shawnee Mission East to a fourth-place finish at the 2013 Kansas 6A State Tournament concluding the season with a 21-4 record and earned All Sunflower League Honorable Mention accolades his senior year. He credits his basketball days and high school basketball coach, Shawn Hair, in preparing him for college life.
“Coach Hair was such a great teacher and really emphasized discipline and patience which have helped me at KU,” said Hanna. “Playing golf helped me really relax during basketball season and playing basketball helped me focus on the little details. The biggest thing that both sports helped me with was developing that competitive edge.”
Hanna’s competitiveness was on full display as a golfer in high school as he won a total of 12 tournaments in his career, including six first-place finishes his senior year. He was a three-time Sunflower League individual champion and a two-time regional tournament champion. Hanna was also the recipient of the 2013 Kenneth Smith Award, presented to the top male golfer in the Kansas City area based on performance, academics, leadership and community service.
His top achievements from high school occurred in the summer after his senior year. In June 2013, Hanna set a record for margin of victory while running away from the field in the Kansas Junior Amateur at Winfield's Quail Ridge Golf Course. A couple of weeks later he impressed the national golf media by setting a course record in the first round of the Western Junior against a field of some of the highest ranked junior golfers. Then in July, on his 19th birthday, he dominated the best Kansas amateur golfers at Indian Hills Country Club to win the 103rd Kansas Amateur Match Play Championship.
“Winning the state amateur is the pinnacle of state golf,” Kansas head men’s golf coach Jamie Bermel said. “And for a young kid to do that is very impressive on Chase’s part.”
With those two victories, Hanna became only the second person to win both the Kansas Junior and Kansas Amateur in the same year. The only other time this happened was by Johnny Stevens in 1960. National media took notice of Hanna’s achievement as he appeared in the July 22, 2013 issue of Sports Illustrated “Faces in the Crowd”.
“Winning both Amateurs was a neat deal and something I was very proud of,” said the soft-spoken Hanna. “Appearing in Sports Illustrated was a very nice honor, and I thought it was nice that someone nominated me. My grandparents framed the issue for me as a birthday present.”
Hanna started playing golf at a young age when his grandfather, Jerry Eads, introduced the game he’d soon fall in love with.
“I would always go visit him and he’d take me out golfing,” said Hanna. “I would follow him around with a couple plastic clubs and really began to enjoy the game.”
Hanna would continue playing golf as he grew and realized in sixth grade he could have a chance to take his golf game to the next level.
“I started to truly believe I could play college golf and that became my focus and my main goal,” said Hanna.
When it came time to choose which college he would play golf for, Hanna knew the choice would be pretty easy. His father, William, uncle, Dave, and grandpa, David, all attended KU. In addition, his cousin, Emily, is currently enrolled at Kansas.
“I had always been a Jayhawk growing up,” said Hanna. “I talked to Coach Bermel and he really sold me on where the program was headed. I wanted to be a part of getting KU golf back on track.”
His success in high school would quickly carry over in his first season of college. Hanna has participated in six meets for the Jayhawks in his young career, finishing as the top-team individual in four of them. He has finished in the top 20 three times this year and placed in the top five at the Badger Invitational in October.
"When he came in this fall he played with a certain level of confidence," Bermel said. "In the tournaments he looked like a seasoned veteran. He played great and always seemed to have himself under control."
Hanna has played 18 rounds of golf thus far for the Jayhawks, with 16 of those rounds counted toward the team score. He has had three rounds even with par and six rounds under, averaging a team-best score of 72.61.
Not only is Hanna efficient on the golf course, but the young business major also finished his first semester of college with a 3.7 GPA.
It would be easy for all the accolades and success to get in the freshman’s head. After spending time with Hanna, it is quickly evident that all the individual awards mean something to him, but it’s the big picture he is after.“I really want to see this program be successful,” said Hanna. “In the next three seasons and beyond, I want to see KU start competing for Big 12 Championships and get KU going back in the right direction. I don’t think we’re quite there, but I do think we’re headed the right way.”