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Golfer Chase Hanna making professional debut, teeing off with fellow Jayhawk Chris Thompson

Chase Hanna

Chase Hanna

Butterflies inevitably accompany any athlete making his professional debut, but reigning Big 12 men’s golf champion Chase Hanna does have a few factors that could ease them.

For one thing, he’s playing in his hometown. For another, he has a fellow Jayhawk competing right alongside him.

Hanna, a recent graduate from the University of Kansas, received a sponsor’s exemption to get into the field for the Digital Ally Open, a tour event.

Lawrence resident Chris Thompson, 41, a two-time All-American during his Kansas days and a veteran professional golfer, and Hanna are in the final threesome to tee off Thursday at LionsGate in Overland Park.

“We’re really excited about that,” Hanna said of two Jayhawks playing together. “He’s a great guy and certainly a hell of a player. It will be fun playing with him. I should be a comfortable pairing. It should be fun.”

Matt Mabery, 23, of Tulsa will join the two Jayhawks for a 2:15 tee time Thursday. The trio tees off at 9 a.m. in Friday’s second round. Mabery gained entry to the tournament via a Monday qualifier. Thompson earned a spot with a top-25 finish in last weekend’s event in Omaha.

“Hopefully, there will be a bunch of KU fans watching us since we’re playing together,” Hanna said.

Thompson predicted scores would be “crazy low,” and added, “it’s a great course and it’ll be in great shape.”

The top 25 finishers on the money list earn PGA tour cards for the following season. Andrew Landry, this season’s leader on the tour money list with $276,118, tees off at 7:50 a.m. Thursday. Augusto Nuñez ranks 25th with $116,421.

The Digital Ally Open field includes Beau Hossler, who in 2011 at the age of 16 qualified for the U.S. Open. He qualifed again in 2012 and momentarily held the lead in the second round at The Olympic Club on his way to finishing 29th. Hossler, who played his college golf at Texas, missed Q school because of an injury and has played in just six tour events, yet already ranks 18th on the money list with $149,312. He tees off at 12:45 p.m. Thursday.

Hanna said he found out about his sponsor’s exemption after winning the Big 12 individual title at Prairie Dunes.

“I think that certainly helped,” Hanna said. “I don’t have too many expectations for this week. Obviously, I’d like to make the cut. I look at it as a great experience whether I get first or dead last. It will really help me just getting the experience.”

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