Iowa In 5th Place at Men's Golf NCAA Regional

May 19, 2011

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ZIONSVILLE, Ind. – – Junior Chris Brant shot a three-under par 68 to share medalist honors and lead the University of Iowa men’s golf team in the first round of the NCAA Regional golf tournament here Thursday. The Hawkeyes shot a team score of 285 (+1) in the opening round on the 7,000-yard Wolf Run layout and stand in fifth place in the team standings. Brant is tied for first place in the individual standings with six other competitors.

Illinois leads the 14-team event (277, -7), followed by Alabama (278, -6) and Michigan (278, -3). Stanford (284, E) is fourth, one stroke ahead of the Iowa Hawkeyes. The top five teams after three rounds of play advance to the NCAA Championships, May 31-June 5 at Stillwater, Okla. Tennessee (287, +3) and Florida State (291, +7) trail Iowa.

“We started out in the first group so it was a little damp this morning,” said Iowa Coach Mark Hankins. “It was kind of cool and the first hole is not easy, so I think we pretty much played that about four-over par. From then on we fought hard and got it back to one-over par, which I think was a pretty solid team score today.

“I’m proud of the guys,” added Hankins. “It’s a three round tournament and they know that. There’s no reason to get excited about the first hole, or the last hole. They’re all the same and we’re just trying to keep a level head about everything; keep to our business and hopefully shoot another good score tomorrow.”

Along with Brant, Iowa scores included a 70 (-1) for senior Brad Hopfinger and a 72 (+1) for senior Vince India. Juniors Barrett Kelpin and Jed Dirksen each shot 75 (+4).

Brant, coming off a second place finish at the Big Ten Championships, has now shot even par or better in five of his last six rounds. He was even at the turn before collecting four birdies on the back nine. He birdied the par four 10th hole, but went back to even with a bogie at 13. He then birdied the par four 14th, the par three 16th and the par five 17th, while taking par on 15 and 18.

“I birdied ten, the par five,” said Brant, of his play on the back nine. “I hit it to about five feet and made the putt. Then I birdied 16 and 17, so it was a more productive nine. I hit it about 10 feet past the hole and to the right (on 16). It was just kind of the middle of the green, but that green is so small that anywhere on it and you have a decent look at birdie. I rolled it in and it was nice.” Brant started his round with a bogie five on the opening hole, but putted in from off the green for birdie on both five and six. A bogie at seven and consecutive pars on eight and nine left him even at the turn.

“I started with a bogey on the first hole but settled down a little and made some pars,” added Brant. “I just always gave myself a chance for birdie and that yielded good results on the back – I made a few more (putts) than on the front. “I think we’re in good position,” added Brant, of the team standings. “Some of us got on a roll today, but we’re not too far out of it. We’re in good position. The leaders played well. They made some putts and really set a good pace, but I think we’re in good shape. I think we’ll be right in there come Friday and Saturday.” “Minus-three is a great score today,” said Hankins of Brant’s play. “He really played well all day. Chris has been playing well and he has some confidence right now. But, he’s got to do the same thing that he’s been doing and keep trying to make birdies.”

Hopfinger also rallied on the back nine for his 70. After making the turn at two over, he collected three birdies and six pars coming home. His birdies came on the par four 12th, the par five 17th and the par four 18th. Hopfinger opened his round with a birdie on the opening par four. A double bogie on the par five third and bogie on nine left Hopfinger at two over heading to the turn.

“It was pretty good,” said Hopfinger of his opening round. “I got off to a good start and birdied the first hole, but doubled the third after that. I was playing great and kind of hung in there. I turned it up on the back nine and hit a lot of good shots. I had a lot of good looks and ended up making three of them and shot a good score on the back nine.”

His birdie putts on the first and last holes were from within three feet. “Both times I kind of got yardages that really set up well for me and I had a good wind for them,” noted Hopfinger. “I really just trusted it and hit good shots in there.

“I played a little better golf and made some putts,” added Hopfinger, on his back nine. “But I think the big thing was that I started hitting my iron shots better. I hit the driver well all day, but I started getting my irons a little closer and that allowed me to make the putts.”

India also opened his round with a birdie on the opening hole. He added another birdie on the par five third hole to get back under par after a bogie on three. Bogies on six and seven left India one over at the turn. He played even par through the first five holes on the back nine before a bogie on 15. He birdied the short par three 16th before ending the round with pars on both 17 and 18.

Kelpin started with a double bogie on his opening hole, but remained at two over at the turn after birdies on three and six and bogies on four and nine. He had pars on four of the first five holes on the back, the only exception being a bogie at 11. He added six straight pars on holes 12 through 17 before a bogie five on the final hole.

Like Hopfinger and Kelpin, Dirksen was two over at the turn. His front nine included two birdies, two bogies and one double bogie. A bogie on 10 and birdie on 11 kept him at two over before bogies on 12, 14 and 15. He closed with consecutive pars on 16 and 17 before closing the round with a birdie on the par four final hole.

“This is a tight golf course” said Hankins of the Wolf Run layout. “The greens aren’t super-fast. They’re good. It’s a Midwestern style golf course. It’s through trees and up and down hills and it’s kind of what we’re used to. Even though we’ve never seen it before, we’re comfortable out here. It’s definitely a challenge, so we have to continue to hit good shots and grind for every shot we can.”

Regional competition will continue with 18 holes of play both Friday and Saturday. Fans can follow live scoring at Play begins at 7:20 a.m. CT on Friday and 6:30 a.m. CT Saturday.

Team Standings
1. Illinois 277 (-7)
T2. Alabama 278 (-6)
T2. Michigan 278 (-6)
4. Stanford 284 (E)
5. IOWA 285 (+1)
6. Tennessee 287 (+3)
7. Florida State 291 (+7)
8. Memphis 292 (+8)
9. Indiana 293 (+9)
10. UNC-Charlotte 295 (+11)
T11. Wichita State 301 (+17)
T11. Wake Forest 301 (+17)
13. Missouri-Kansas City 312 (+28)
14. Sacred Heart 319 (+35)

Individual Standings – par 71 (top three plus Iowa)
1. Chris Brant, Iowa 68
Jack Belote, Memphis 68
Bud Cauley, Alabama 68
Hunter Hamrick, Alabama 68
Scott Langley, Illinois 68
Jack Schultz, Michigan 68
Matt Thompson, Michigan 68
T14. Brad Hopfinger, Iowa 71
T25. Vince India, Iowa 72
T41. Jed Dirksen, Iowa 75
T41. Barrett Kelpin, Iowa 75