Hunter Kraus will look to lead Mizzou back to NCAA play this season.
Feb. 18, 2014
By Michelle Hantak, Media Relations Student Assistant
As men's golfer Hunter Kraus enters the final stage of his collegiate career, he can reflect positively on his time spent at Mizzou.
The senior captain grew up just outside of Memphis, Tenn., with his parents, a younger brother and sister. Kraus' father, Alan, got him involved in golf at a young age. "I grew up playing golf with my dad since I can remember," Kraus said. "It was sort of a family thing sometimes."
Although Kraus' father taught him the basics of the game, Kraus cultivated his passion for golf by just playing for fun with friends and neighbors. "I lived right next to where I played and I had a lot of friends out there," Kraus said. "When I was in middle school, it was kind of just a thing where my friends and I would go play golf. It was fun and we would just do it."
When Kraus was seven, he started to play in local tournaments. He began to have success and realized that with practice, he had the potential to be a high-level golfer. A defining moment in Kraus' amateur career was a city middle school championship tournament he won in seventh grade. "It was nine holes and no big deal, but I birdied the first hole and then made eight straight pars to finish one-under-par," Kraus said. "I was kind of just like what the heck and the next summer is when I started playing competitively."
At St. George's High School, Kraus also competed in basketball his freshman and senior years and swimming during his junior year. In golf, Kraus was a three-time State DII-A Champion and finished his career with a stroke average of 73. Kraus was a key factor on St. Gerorge's 2007-08 State Champion golf team. He also excelled in the classroom, as he was a member of the National Honor Society, National Latin Honor Society, and National History Honor Society. He was named to the honor roll his freshman and sophomore years and named a St. George's Scholar during his final two years of high school.
Although he doesn't believe he had tremendous success during his junior golf career, playing at the junior level and all throughout high school helped Kraus to realize that college golf was something he wanted to pursue. "I decided that this would be fun to do in college and maybe I could use golf to go somewhere either big to play or cool to study," Kraus said.
Being from Tennessee, and much to Head Coach Mark Leroux's dismay, Kraus was a huge Tennessee Volunteer fan growing up and wanted to represent his home state on the golf course. However, Kraus contacted the Volunteers during his sophomore year of high school to schedule an unofficial visit and was informed that his class at Tennessee was already filled with other committed recruits. After the letdown from Knoxville, Kraus didn't really care where he ended up, as long as he got to play somewhere. Kraus started looking at schools like Vanderbilt and the University of Virginia because of their top-tier academics, but offers from those schools fell through and Kraus was no longer sure his dream to play college golf would come to fruition.
By chance, Kraus eventually found a home in Missouri. "I played a tournament in Springfield, Mo., and played pretty well and Coach was there and he offered," Kraus said. "I still had a few other offers, but Missouri was in the Big 12 at the time, a good golf conference. I visited and it was a pretty cool place."
Over the course of his time at the university, Kraus has developed into someone Leroux can count on, regardless of the circumstances. "I have total confidence in Hunter," Leroux said. "I know exactly what I will get out of him every time he steps on the course, into the weight room, the classroom or in a public setting."
Leroux also said Kraus has developed into a "true leader" for the team over the past four years, as he leads through his work ethic and example.
Kraus started five events for the Tigers in both his freshman and sophomore golf seasons. His top finish from the two seasons was a 10th place finish at the Mizzou Intercollegiate in the spring of his freshman year. His junior year was when Kraus really started to find his groove for Mizzou. He started 11 of the 12 Tiger tournaments during his junior campaign, with two Top Five finishes. The then junior tied for third at the season-opening Turning Stone Intercollegiate and finished in second at the Mizzou Intercollegiate. Kraus was Mizzou's leading performer at its first SEC Championship tournament, finishing 15th overall. The senior admits that his final season as a member of the Tiger golf squad has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start. His best finish of the 2013-14 season thus far is a tie for 18th at the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate where he shot a season-best 2-under-par. Kraus also shot a career-low round score of 67 at the Columbia Regional Preview in September.
One of Kraus' favorite memories from his time at Mizzou is competing in the SEC Championships last year. Not only did Kraus finish the tournament well, but he also was able to play in more of a home setting. "Being from Tennessee, SEC football is always what I loved, so joining the SEC was great," Kraus said. "Playing in Sea Island, Ga., and against a lot of people I knew was really cool."
For Kraus, the most difficult part about being a student athlete is the time commitment. Playing a lot of practice rounds, especially on the weekend, is very time consuming when it comes to also managing his academics and other campus involvement. Kraus also said that golf is challenging because it's so mentally tough on the collegiate level. "In a tournament for school, if you play bad, you let your coach down, your four teammates down and the guys back home wish they would have gone instead of you," Kraus said. "It's a little bit more pressure, but it's also more rewarding when you do play well."
Kraus believes he has grown a lot through the Mizzou Golf program since he arrived on campus as an anxious freshman. "One of the main focuses I have perceived from coach is not to just go and hit balls for no reason or method to what you're doing, so always practicing with a purpose. That can be applied to a lot of things. That carries over to life in general."
Off the course, Kraus is a standout in the classroom. As a member of the Honors College, he takes his classes and his double major in chemistry and Latin very seriously. In addition to golf and school, Kraus is involved in Mizzou's chapter of Cru, an international Christian ministry group. As a member of student leader of Cru, Kraus attends weekly meetings, leads Bible study sessions and meets with other members of the organization one-on-one to discuss their relationship spiritual journey. "Coming to Mizzou I had no idea what to expect," Kraus said. "Everyone said that you'll find something to get involved in, but Cru and the people in it actually did change my life so that's been really awesome. It's been really influential in my life and one of the reasons I'm thankful I came to Mizzou."
Cru has made such an impact on Kraus' life that he is currently in the process of applying for an internship with the organization. As in intern, Kraus would raise money, assist in Cru's development on Mizzou's campus and lead students in their faith formation. If his internship with Cru does not pan out, Kraus plans to stay in Columbia next year, get a job and study for the MCAT or GRE in hopes of eventually attending grad school.
Upon graduating, Kraus will miss golf as well as the close bonds he has made with teammates over the past four years. "Golf has been a huge part of my life since middle school so not playing competitive golf and not playing a lot of golf is going to be weird," Kraus said. "I think I'm going to miss the team, just hanging out. College is great because you have responsibilities, but once you get out, you have to do real things. It's kind of like the end of childhood in a way."
Kraus is excited to finish out his final semester as a golfer and undergraduate student and has high hopes for team in the upcoming spring season. He believes that the new indoor facility has better prepared the team for spring competition. Kraus hopes to finish his golf career on a high note by making it through the NCAA Regional at The Club at Old Hawthorne and into the National Championship.
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