Home Sweet Home

April 13, 2012

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 — It wouldn’t be surprising to see an old “Home Sweet Home” floor mat in front of the University of Iowa men’s golf teams’ locker room at Finkbine Golf Course in Iowa City.

Head coach Mark Hankins and the UI men’s golf team will host the Hawkeye-Great River Entertainment Invitational at Finkbine this weekend, after playing nine of their first 10 events away from their home course. Ten Division I men’s golf teams, including five Big Ten schools and intra-state rival Iowa State, will tee it up Saturday and Sunday with 9 a.m. shotgun starts.

Members of the Iowa golf team are extremely excited to play in front of a home crowd this weekend.

“I’m pretty pumped,” said sophomore Steven Ihm, who will be playing in his first home competition. “It should be a lot of fun, but you can’t let that stuff get into your head. You want to enjoy the fact that there are spectators around, but you need to keep your mental focus throughout the tournament.”

This will be senior Chris Brant’s third Hawkeye Invitational. He is looking forward to playing a competitive tournament at Finkbine one more time.

“It will be fun,” Brant said. “We will have a lot of support out here this weekend, hopefully cheering us on for another tournament win.”

Iowa’s home crowd won’t be the only advantage over the weekend. The Hawkeyes play Finkbine nearly every day, giving them a big advantage over their opponents.

“The greatest home court advantage in sports is in golf,” Hankins said. “You understand the subtleties of the greens; you know where to hit it on certain holes, things like that. There is a distinct advantage to playing at home.”

Ihm also believes the advantage can help, but execution is still a factor.

“It’s obviously a pretty distinct advantage for us,” Ihm said. “A lot of the teams have played here before, but we play here every day. We are a little more well-equipped to play the course, but you still have to play good enough to beat everyone else.”

Brant knows how challenging Finkbine can be and is thankful to have a large amount of course knowledge heading into a college golf tournament.

“Finkbine is a tough course if you haven’t played it very much,” Brant said. “Finkbine has intricacies that are very difficult. Thankfully, we get to play here every day, and we know where to hit it and where not to hit it. You still have to hit the shots and you still have to play well. That’s what we are doing out here in practice; trying to play the way we need to play in order to win golf tournaments.”

Brant and the Hawkeyes nearly pulled off their first win of the year two weekends ago at the LSU National Invitational, finishing in second place by two strokes to the host Tigers. Even though Iowa didn’t come home with a first place trophy, Brant believes the experience will help the team down the road.

“We were close to winning,” Brant said. “But we all saw improvements in our game. Those improvements need to continue to carry over.”

Hankins wants those improvements to stay with his players, but wants them to attack this tournament like it’s a new week.

“It’s a totally different feel this week,” Hankins said. “We are still trying to continue our theme of individual goals and trying to accomplish individual finishes. Our guys need to understand that they are playing an individual tournament against 65 competitors this weekend. The goal is to finish as high as you can, individually.”

With a home court advantage in Finkbine Golf Course and a hometown crowd cheering them on, this weekend’s leaderboard should be crowded with Hawkeyes.