Playing Golf for Fun

May 31, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Chris Brant has played in the No. 3 spot on the University of Iowa men’s golf roster for most of the season. He is playing more like the No. 1 guy entering the NCAA Championships.

Brant, a junior from Edwardsville, Ill., has been consistently at the top of leaderboards during postseason play, starting at the Big Ten Championships in West Lafayette, Ind.

Brant fired an opening round 67 (-5) at the tournament to take a two-stroke lead heading into the second round. He stretched that lead to four strokes after 36 holes, carding an even par 72 over his second 18 holes.

Third round playing conditions at the Big Ten Championships were tough, with 20-30 mile per hour winds on the course. Brant slipped to one stroke off the lead after the third round and stayed in contention during the final day of play. He was in the final group and battled for the individual title all day, eventually finishing runner-up by one stroke. He was one of only two players to finish the tournament at even par or better.

Brant brought home a runner-up medal and a place on the Big Ten Championships’ all-tournament team. He believes the experience of playing in the final group helped him prepare for more intense postseason play.

“Personally, that was a great experience,” Brant said.” I played with a couple Walker Cup guys and some other very good players. I played well under those circumstances. As a team, we’ve been able to execute under pressure and that’s very important.”

Next up for Brant and the Hawkeyes was the NCAA Regional tournament, hosted at Wolf Run Golf Club in Zionsville, Ind. Brant once again stormed to the top of the individual leaderboard with a 68 (-3) in the opening round to take a share of the lead into day two. He stayed in the top two after the second round with an even par 72 and eventually finished in the top 10, tying for seventh place in, arguably, the NCAA’s toughest regional competition with seven of the 14 teams ranked inside the top 40.

What’s more impressive was Brant’s calm demeanor down the stretch. He was playing in the final pairing for Iowa, who was in a tight battle with Tennessee and Stanford to qualify for the NCAA Championships. On the 18th hole, he striped a drive well over 300 yards down a narrow fairway, nearly ensuring Iowa would advance to its second NCAA Championships in three seasons.

“I was trying to be as confident as possible,” Brant said about the tee shot. “I wanted to swing freely. It was a freeing experience, I definitely ripped it and it felt good. I think that shot showed the confidence we had as a team all week.”

Brant will be the third Hawkeye to tee off Tuesday at the NCAA Championships, but there’s a good chance he will be the last to finish when the competition is completed. Playing in the final group for Iowa has become a habit for Brant and he doesn’t mind waiting on the tee.

“I have so much trust in my teammates,” Brant said. “But at the end of the day, it’s just a round of golf. I just want to go out, play and have fun.”

Parents often tell their children to find a job that they enjoy, that’s fun. Brant’s junior season at Iowa indicates he might have found his calling.