Oct. 28, 2011
Sophomore Steven Ihm, a transfer from Indian Hills Community College, finished as the individual runner-up at the Rod Myers Invitational in his third tournament with the Hawkeyes. He followed it up with an eighth place showing at the 2011 U.S. Collegiate Championship, which led to him being named the Big Ten Golfer of the Week on Oct. 26.
Ihm, a native Peosta, Iowa, has posted a 73.33 scoring average over 12 rounds for the team this fall.
Discuss the path you took in collegiate golf, starting at the junior college level and then finding your way here to Iowa.
I got a late start out of high school playing in nationally ranked tournaments. It was my family’s first time going through the recruiting process, and I got a late start on it and that’s why I went the junior college route. I had some options, but none I wanted to pursue. Coach (Hankins) told me, if you go down there and play well, options will come up, and they did.
How has the transition been since coming to Iowa?
It’s been kind of crazy. I decided to come about two weeks before classes started and signed about three days before classes began. The first three weeks were pretty crazy just getting housing arranged and everything, but now that it has settled down I am becoming more used to the academic rigors of Division I.
You won an NJCAA Championship at Indian Hills and were named the NJCAA Freshman of the Year. How will that success carry over to the Division I level? Any pressure?
That was one of the main things coming out of Indian Hills. I told my coach before I left, I wouldn’t have left if I didn’t think I could play Division I. There was a little bit of pressure there, but I felt comfortable with my game coming into the season, and I think it showed. I qualified right away and have played in every meet so far.
You were raised in the state of Iowa, have you always been a Hawkeye?
It’s kind of hard because pretty-much my whole family is from Wisconsin. My mom and dad were raised there, and my dad is a partial Wisconsin fan. With two of his sons going to Iowa, he is starting to transfer over a little bit.
Discuss how it’s been playing under head coach Mark Hankins, regarded as one of the best in the nation.
It’s been good. There is certainly a lot more expected out of us this year and everything that he does is intended to help you.
With a second-place finish just three tournaments into your Iowa career, what was your key to finding success so quickly?
It was finding that mental zone that he (coach Hankins) is trying to get us in. The first two tournaments I had it the first two rounds and then the last round I would get ahead of myself at the start. I even got ahead of myself at the start of the last tournament, as I was three over through 5-6 holes, and I thought to myself `what am I doing differently today than I was doing yesterday?’ I was playing too fast. Coach Hankins saw me after I made my first bogey and he told me to slow down and it transferred over to the next 12 holes.
A strong foundation has been built by at Iowa. How do you plan to build and improve on that?
By playing as best I can, trying to exceed coach Hankins’ expectations, and he has pretty high expectations for all of us. I want to help him improve the program, and I think I can do that the next 2-3 years here.
With NCAA Regional competition and Big Ten title aspirations, how do you stay in the present and keep the focus on the next meet?
Coach Hankins tells us every day that the only tournament that matters is the next tournament. You have to constantly keep telling yourself that and not get too far ahead of yourself. You never know what could happen the rest of the year. If you’re thinking about playing at NCAA Regionals already, then you’re not going to be focused on playing in the next tournament.
What points of your golf game are you happy with and what things do you want to improve on?
Right now I am happy with most things, but in golf there is always something you can improve on. My driving is awesome. I haven’t had more than one penalty stroke for the past three tournaments. I am always keeping the ball in play. I am working on my putting all the time. You can make up a lot of shots with the putter and you can almost discourage some people when you’re playing with them, too. If you run in a couple of 20-footers in a row, they’re thinking, `geez, what do I have to do to try to beat this kid?’
Discuss the balance of being a college student and a student-athlete?
It’s tough. We have a lot of good resources here with the Gerdin Athletic Learning Center. I think I have a pretty good grasp of what it’s going to be in my three years here. The first three weeks were hectic, but now I can find a good balance with everything.