Different Feeling 2nd Time Around

May 27, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Appearances at the NCAA Championships used to be few and far between for the University of Iowa men’s golf team. They are now regular occurrences under Head Coach Mark Hankins.

The Hawkeyes will be making their second trip in three seasons to the pinnacle of college golf. Hankins took the head coaching job at Iowa in 2007 and it took just two seasons for him to lead Iowa to an NCAA Championships berth in 2009. The Hawkeyes missed the 2010 Championships by a single stroke, but Iowa returns to NCAA Championships action Tuesday in Stillwater, Okla., at Karsten Creek.

One glance at the history of Iowa golf shows that the current streak of NCAA Championship appearances is impressive. Before 2009, Iowa’s last NCAA Championships experience was in 1995. You have to flip all the way back to 1960 to find the next appearance, followed by 1957, 1946 and 1939.

The fact that Iowa has qualified two times in three seasons speaks volumes about the job Hankins has done at Iowa.

“This year the feeling is different headed to the NCAA Championships,” Hankins said. “Two years ago, it was a huge story. We felt fortunate to be there. This year, we expected to move on. That’s a good sign.”

The Hawkeyes are looking for experience to play a key factor next week in Stillwater. Four of Iowa’s five golfers participated in the 2009 NCAA Championships, where the Hawkeyes finished 17th in the nation.

“We are really confident in each other as a team,” senior Vince India said. “That helps us a lot. We know that our teammates have been in big tournaments and played well. Experience gives us confidence.”

Hankins also believes his team’s experiences on the big stage will help next week.

“It’s very important,” Hankins said. “We know what to expect. There will be no acclimation issue, because we’ve already played some of the best teams in the country over the past couple years.”

The top 30 teams in NCAA Division I golf will play a total of 54 holes, with 18-hole rounds scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The individual champion will be crowned after the stroke play portion of the tournament and the top eight teams after Thursday will be paired for match play competition. The NCAA team champion will be determined through match play.

Hankins has his squad fully prepared for match play competition. He entered his team in both the Big Ten Match Play Championships and the Callaway Collegiate Match Play tournament to start the 2011 spring season. The Hawkeyes tallied a combined 4-3 record in match play tournaments, knocking off three top-15 teams in Alabama (3rd), Georgia (13th) and Washington State (14th) at the Callaway Collegiate Match Play tournament.

Iowa enters the NCAA Championships as the No. 13 seed and Hankins is expecting a solid week of play from his student-athletes.

“I expect us to be well prepared and to play tough mentally,” Hankins said. “That will lead to good team scores.”

Match play experience is key at the NCAA Championships, but teams have to get through the 54-hole stroke play qualifying first. Hankins wants his golfers to worry about their own scores during the first three rounds.

“You need to take care of yourself,” Hankins said. “You have 54 holes to prove you are the best player in the country. If we play like that, the team score takes care of itself.”