August 6, 2002

Klenz Looks to Build on Freshman Success

Aug. 6, 2002

by: Joe Freeman
The Oregonian

TUALITIN, Ore. - The former Tualatin High School golfer impresses the Broncos with his length off the tee and his maturity Sandy Horacek finally got what he wanted. Or so he thought.

It was his senior season on the golf team at Santa Clara University, and the team's long hitters had graduated.

"We've had some really long hitters on the team the past few years," Broncos coach John Kennaday said. "Well, Sandy, my captain, is a great golfer but doesn't hit the ball all that long off the tees. He was happy to see all of the big hitters go so they couldn't show him up anymore."

Enter freshman Matt Klenz, a Tualatin High School graduate.

"Matt goes up to the tee box on his first hole at his very first practice at Santa Clara," Kennaday said. "It's a 360-yard par 4, a typical driver-wedge hole. Well, Matt gets up there and nearly drives the green.

"His ball landed just to the side and he was chipping sideways onto the green. In five years playing on that golf course, nobody has seen a ball hit there. Sandy turned to me and said, 'Oh, my God.'"

Klenz turned many heads during his first season at Santa Clara.

Not only did he play in every tournament as a freshman, but Klenz did so with success. He ranked second on the team in scoring average at 74.9 and was the only freshman named to the all-West Coast Conference team.

During the regular season, Klenz finished as the Broncos' low scorer in six of nine tournaments, and in 23 of 25 competitive rounds he shot lower than 80. Klenz also placed among the top 10 in four events.

He placed sixth at the University of Hawaii Fall Invitational and had consecutive eighth-place finishes at the Bronco Invitational and the Elco, Inc. Invitational in Bakersfield, Calif. In March, he won the Irvine Invitational.

Klenz proved at Irvine that he not only can be a force in college, but also that he has maturity beyond his years. The tournament finished with a six-way tie for first place, and the medalist would be decided with a playoff.

The group, which included Klenz and Horacek, would play together on each playoff hole.

"The rest of the guys were disorganized and didn't really seem ready for the playoff," Kennaday said. "But Matt and Sandy were on top of things. I could tell that one of them was going to win it. I told them that I didn't care who did it, but one of them needed to bring the trophy back to Santa Clara."

Klenz and Horacek hit solid drives down the middle of the fairway off the tees. Horacek hit his approach to within eight feet of the hole. Klenz answered, nailing his approach shot to within six inches of the flag. They were the only two to reach the green in two.

If Horacek could make his putt, the two would play on. But it lipped out, Klenz tapped his in, and he became a collegiate medalist for the first time.

"That was really nice," Klenz said. "It was the only tournament that both my mom and my dad were at, and it was good to win. But more importantly, I proved to myself that I can win a tournament. It gave me confidence that I can do it again."

It also helped him earn the award for WCC player of the month for March.

Kennaday said Klenz features the "total package." Not only is the 6-foot-2 right-hander overwhelming off the tees, but he also has a strong short game, Kennaday said. The Broncos coach and longtime golf instructor said Klenz is the best freshman chipper and putter he has seen. He added that Klenz's freshman season is just the beginning.

"It was a very promising season," Kennaday said. "A very good start to a potentially very solid career. Matt has tremendous upward potential. He has a good head on his shoulders and he has a good ability to focus and stay even-keeled. He has the potential to become an all-American, and he's going to be a big part of us putting together a nationally competitive team."

Santa Clara has not qualified to compete for a national championship, nor has the school had an individual champion. And last season, the Broncos started as many as five freshmen in tournaments.

Klenz said he hopes this translates into future success. As the young golfers get older, improve and mature, Klenz is hopeful scores will drop.

"The first few tournaments, none of us really knew what to expect and we didn't know what was going on," Klenz said. "We just didn't have the system down. But it was a good season. We all bonded and grew to be friends. Plus, the experience meant a lot. I can only imagine getting all that early playing time will help us in the long run."

This summer Klenz is competing in various tournaments in the Northwest. He played in the Oregon Amateur -- reaching the second round -- and the Oregon Open, where he made the cut. Last weekend, Klenz played in the Rosauers Open Invitational in Spokane, the biggest professional tournament in the Northwest, and tied for 21st.

Klenz said he next plans to compete in U.S. Amateur regional qualifying, starting Tuesday at the OGA Members Course in Woodburn.

And although Klenz has an eye on next season at Santa Clara, he said he couldn't have imagined a better opening year with the Broncos.

"Going in, I was just hoping I would get to play in a few tournaments," Klenz said. "I wasn't really sure how everything was going to work. But I ended up playing a lot and learning a lot. And I gained a lot of confidence for the future."