LAWRENCE, Kan. — Norfolk native Luke Kluver won three state titles and helped lead the Norfolk Panthers golf team to the 2018 state championship during his high school career.
A few years later, he might be wearing different school colors, but Kluver is still a force to be reckoned with, as he now leads the University of Kansas Jayhawks.
Halfway through his second year with the Kansas men's golf team, Kluver has adjusted quickly to the college routine of competing as a student-athlete, and his play has exceeded expectations.
"It's definitely a big jump from high school to college. It's all about growing up, being more mature on the golf course and limiting mistakes," Kluver said. "The level of play is a lot higher in college golf. Tournaments are extremely tough to win, and I've found that out very quick. I found out that guys are going to beat you when you don't bring you're ‘A’ game."
Kluver made the transition to the collegiate level smoothly in his freshman year with the Jayhawks and he hasn't missed a beat since he was back at Norfolk High.
"He just doesn't have any weaknesses in his game. He drives it extremely straight, his iron play is solid and he's a streaky putter. He has really been able to manage school and college golf," Kansas men's golf coach Jaime Bermel said. "He keeps getting better, and his golf IQ is extremely high. He's a very good learner, listener and evaluator, which you don't see guys in college with that type of IQ."
In his first year with Kansas, Kluver secured his best finish of the season when he tied for fifth place at the Windon Memorial Classic and he went a perfect 5-0 in the Big 12 Match Play Championship while he averaged a score of 71.12.
Kluver and Kansas were playing well enough to qualify for an NCAA regional tournament in 2020 until the season was cut short because of COVID-19, at the conclusion of the Brandon Dunes Championship in Brandon Dunes, Oregon, on March 10 of last year.
"It was definitely a weird deal for all of us. We got off the plane and found out the season was canceled," Kluver said. "We've been fortunate to jump back in the sport and play at golf courses in the summer."
Kluver, along with golfers around the country, was able to get out on the links and play in summer tournaments around the country.
Kluver's success continued even from his freshman year and into the summer as he went on to win the 53rd Nebraska Match Play Championship in Lincoln.
When Kluver returned to Lawrence this past fall, it was still a little strange dealing with COVID-19 protocols, but Kluver's play on the golf course remained consistent.
On Oct. 20, Kluver had one of his strongest tournaments of the season as he was the only player in the field to finish par or better in each of the first two rounds, which later led to a fourth-place finish at two strokes over par.
"To be able to finish in fourth place was awesome," Kluver said. "It's hard to win at this level, and I've got to keep learning."
After nearly qualifying for the Houston Open, Kluver’s season was jump-started.
In March, Kluver posted two top 10 finishes, including eighth place at the Lamkin San Diego Classic, where he led all competitors with three eagles in the tournament.
The past few tournaments, Kluver put himself in contention to win.
"It's very difficult to win," Bermel said. "You need good yardages, but you need good breaks along with putts to go in. Every week he has a chance to win."
In his most recent tournament, Kluver finished tied for 12th place at the Aggie Invitational, as he secured four-straight top-20 finishes this season.
Although Kluver is a freshman, based off receiving an extra year of eligibility, Kluver leads the Jayhawks with the scores he posts every week.
"He leads by his scores on the golf course," Bermel said. “He's one of the team guys that guys like to hang out with. He's also a leader because of his golf IQ. He's a freshman by name, but his golf game doesn't translate to a freshman."
Luke isn't the only Kluver who is playing Division I college golf. His brother, Jake, is in his first year in Omaha with the Creighton Bluejays.
"We definitely stay in touch. He likes to ask a lot of questions, which is good, but with as busy as schedule that we have at school and goals, it's tough to make it to him," Kluver said. "We are helping each other along the way."
Kluver and Kansas currently sit right out outside of the top 25 in the country, as they have a couple of tournaments to play before the Big 12 Conference Tournament beginning on April 26.
During this time, Kluver will be searching for the first win of his collegiate career.
"He needs a few good breaks, and he's one of those golfers that if he gets off to a good start, he would keep getting more comfortable as the tournament goes on," Bermel said. "It's a matter of time because he's competitive and he is always working on his game. His maturity on the golf course gets better every week, and hopefully the results will show.
"He's an awesome kid, very talented and has a bright future. He has a chance to make some money playing for a living," Bermel said.
Kluver plans to travel around the country this summer to play in a few tournaments, including defending his Nebraska Match Play Championship title.
But first, Kluver is focusing on finishing his second season with Kansas on a high note.
"I'll try to continue to put myself in positions to have a chance to win with the great events coming up," Kluver said. "I'll continue to put myself towards the top of the leaderboard, and I think I need to keep putting pressure on the golf course."
The NCAA regionals will be played May 17-19, with the NCAA Championships to follow in Scottsdale, Arizona, starting on May 28.