24: Peevler working on mental game

Aug. 28, 2008

Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 7, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2008-09 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Cole Peevler has been playing golf since he was three years old. Despite a distinctive club grip, he has always been able to master the physical demands of the sport. Now, as a University of Iowa senior, he is beginning to conquer the mental aspects which could lead him to the land of the professionals in the near future.

“I’m working more on the mental game,” Peevler said. “I get kind of emotional sometimes. If I hit a bad shot here, I might let that affect another shot there.”

Once Peevler uses his emotions as an ally, the results could be frightening. Last season he averaged 73.9 strokes over 27 rounds with a low 18-hole score of 65. His season average was tops among all Hawkeyes and Peevler tied for runner-up medalist honors April 13 at the Kepler Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, with a 54-hole score of 222.

“For Cole, becoming a more consistent golfer will mean being very scheduled as far as preparation,” UI head coach Mark Hankins said. “In the past he was a little sporadic and now his preparation has become much more disciplined. He is also improving his mental game. He used to fluctuate in mood swings and attitude. If he was playing well, he was doing great. If he got off to a bad start, he would immediately start pressing and get upset with himself.”

There hasn’t been much reason for Peevler to get down on himself this summer. He won the Waterloo Open by seven strokes with a 54-hole score of 203, he tied for fourth at the Iowa Amateur after carding a 213, and he was sixth in the Iowa Masters.

Since arriving at Iowa, Peevler has always been an accomplished golfer. As a freshman, he averaged 74.48 strokes during 29 rounds with a low of 65. During his sophomore season Peevler played 33 rounds and averaged 75.79 strokes per round with a low of 66. He has been second in three meets during his career.

“I just haven’t got that win yet,” Peevler said. “Hopefully I can break out this year and get it.”

Last season at the Big Ten Championship, Peevler tied for 35th with a 72-hole score of 307 (76.75 average per 18 holes) as the Hawkeyes placed 10th in the conference — the highest team finish since Peevler has been at Iowa. That is nothing compared to what he expects for himself and the Hawkeyes this season.

“You have to set your goals high. You can’t think less than being one of the top teams in the Big Ten and realistically we have a shot. My goal is to finish in the top five individually, and as a team, finish in the top three.”
UI senior Cole Peevler

“You have to set your goals high,” Peevler said. “You can’t think less than being one of the top teams in the Big Ten and realistically we have a shot. My goal is to finish in the top five individually, and as a team, finish in the top three.”

One thing Peevler has never lacked is confidence, which is just fine with his coach.

“Cole has very high expectations for himself,” Hankins said. “He sees himself as a great player and that’s what allows him to play No. 1 at the University of Iowa. That translates into helping his teammates to have confidence at bigger tournaments. That confidence is necessary. If you don’t feel like you can compete, then you’re not going to. Cole always feels like he’s the best player out there.”

Leadership is a role Peevler will need to clinch and emphasize this season. Half of the Iowa roster is comprised of first-year players.

“I’m going to play a major leadership role,” Peevler said. “It seems like yesterday when I was looking up to the older players. Now I want to set a good example by practicing hard and going to class, so the young guys can look back four years from now and say, `I’ll do the same things Cole did.'”

Hankins knows that Peevler has already been leading through his exceptional golf game.

“In golf you lead with your score,” he said. “You respect guys who can shoot better scores that you. I would like to see continued progress with Cole’s preparation, attitude and setting a good example for the younger guys. He’s going to be looked to a lot for leadership.”

When Cole was a tot, he would tag along with his father, Gary, a scratch golfer, who placed a club in his son’s hands and encouraged him to swing away. That early experiment led to Cole developing an awkward grip where he holds the club like a baseball bat. The less-than-technically-correct approach has not hindered Peevler’s progress. In fact, both he and Hankins think he is ready for the next step after he completes his collegiate eligibility.

“As soon as I graduate I’m going to turn pro,” Peevler said. “I feel if I don’t turn pro, I’ve wasted 18 years of my life. I can’t wait after I’ve worked so hard for something.”

“Cole is very focused on going to the next level because I know his goal is to play professional golf,” Hankins said. “It’s going to be about living a clean lifestyle so that when he gets out on tour he can treat it like a business and not just play time out there. He has very good support from his family. He’s shown he can shoot the kind of numbers that it takes to win money at the professional level.”

“I hate finishing second. My dad taught me to be confident and he’s confident. My coach is confident and all that kind of rubs off on me. Being confident is a big part of golf. If you’re not confident in yourself, you’re already in second place.”
UI senior Cole Peevler

Peevler, a health and sports studies major, is from Keokuk, Iowa. Already his name is mixed in with that of another native Iowan, former Hawkeye and current professional Sean McCarty. Peevler is second in UI history (behind McCarty) with an 18-hole score of 65. He shares the school record for lowest scores for 36 holes (137) and 54 holes (206). With Peevler’s drive, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’s near or at the top as one of the top golfers in school history.

“I hate finishing second,” Peevler said. “My dad taught me to be confident and he’s confident. My coach is confident and all that kind of rubs off on me. Being confident is a big part of golf. If you’re not confident in yourself, you’re already in second place.”

Having an established golfer like Peevler on the roster made the first season for Hankins in Iowa City easier. Likewise, the hiring of Hankins was a blessing for Peevler.

“There was a 180-degree turn from when I first got here,” Peevler said. “He’s so positive and confident in us. Whatever we need, he’s there. Coach makes everyone better. He learns from us and we learn from him. My first two years were kind of stressful trying to balance school, social life and golf. It just didn’t seem like I was at a Division I golf school. Now it is so fun and so competitive. I think Coach Hankins does a great job.”

Under Hankins, the Hawkeyes have daily 6 a.m. running workouts as well as weightlifting and swimming to complement the more traditional toils on the golf course.

“Those 36-hole days last 10 hours and by the last 10 holes some guys are huffing and puffing and you have to be physically tough to finish,” Peevler said. “When I’m standing on the last couple holes and I know I have to hit a certain shot, I know I can hit it because I’ve done it over and over again. Coach has us in good enough shape to hit that shot. In the past I would be so tired I wouldn’t commit to my shot and I couldn’t hit it.”

Hankins predicts an outstanding senior season for Peevler, especially if he absorbs as much in Year 2 as he did a season ago.

“Cole has come a long way,” Hankins said. “He’s been one of the hardest workers in the workout room, getting up early for practice and making sure he’s ready to play a tournament. I’m hoping he’ll continue to grow in that area and be a leader on our team.”

Iowa opens the fall season Sept. 12-14 at the Golden Gopher Invitational in Minneapolis. The spring portion kicks off with a dual on Feb. 14 against the University of Arizona in Scottsdale, Ariz.