Iowa Men's Golf Advances to NCAA Championships

ATHENS, Georgia — The University of Iowa men’s golf team fired a one-over par 285 to claim fifth place at the NCAA Southeast Regional and earn a trip to the NCAA Championships, to be held at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Ca. The Hawkeyes ended the event with a score of 867 (+14) to earn the final spot by one stroke.

Coach Mark Hankins and the Hawkeyes will be making their third trip in the last four seasons to the NCAA Championships. Stroke play at the championships is slated for May 29-31, with the top eight teams advancing to match play June 1-3. The Hawkeyes placed 10th at the national event a year ago, the highest finish in program history.

“We had a great attitude coming out this morning,” said Hankins. “We made some good progress yesterday, but didn’t close out and finish the round. Today we got out to a nice start, made a few more putts and caught the roll that we were all looking for.

Ian Vandersee led Iowa’s charge on Saturday, as the freshman from West Des Moines shot a five-under par 66. Vandersee moved to a tie for eighth place in the 54-hole event, as his final round total was the low score of the day by three strokes and the second lowest 18-hole score of the tournament by a single stroke.”I said from the beginning of the week that it took us a while to get used to the golf course,” added Hankins, who is in his fifth year at Iowa. “We played better each day. The score didn’t show it on day two, but we did play better. Today everyone played patient but very determined and Ian threw a nice score in there to get us over the top.”

“Ian was just amazing,” said Hankins. “I don’t know what the second lowest score was today, but that was one of the better rounds you’ll see in college golf and I’m very proud of him. He continued to steady himself out there and continued to make birdies through the 17th hole. He did exactly what we talked about – stay in the present and continue to make birdies if you’re the guy that’s going low. The other guys kept pushing and trusted their teammates to do the same. That’s all we needed on a tough final day.”

Vandersee ended the event with a one-under total of 212 to pace the Hawkeyes. Senior Chris Brant shot 74 on Saturday and finished tied for 21st overall with a 217 (+4) total. Sophomore Steven Ihm was even par in the final round for a 219 total (+6), matching senior Barrett Kelpin in a tie for 29th. Freshman Joseph Winslow rebounded with a 74 in the final round and concluded the event with a 231 total (+18).

Brant, a native of Edwardsville, Ill., and Kelpin, a native of Kalamazoo, Mich., will compete in their third national tournament as Hawkeyes. Ihm, a sophomore from Peosta, Iowa, helped his Indian Hills Community College team win the junior college national title a year ago before joining the Hawkeyes.

Top-seeded Alabama shot a one-under par 283 in the final round to win the regional event with an 828 total (-24). East Carolina (853), North Florida (858) and host Georgia (864) also advanced to the championships. Iowa placed ahead of 16th-ranked New Mexico (867) and defending national champion Augusta State (870) to claim the fifth and final qualifying spot.

Vandersee got off to a fast start on Saturday, collecting a birdie on the 11th hole, his second hole of the day. He added a birdie on 15 before his only bogey of the day came on 17. He ended the opening nine with a birdie on the par four 18th. On his back nine, Vandersee added birdies on two of the par fours before his final birdie came on the par three ninth hole.

“I got off to a good start,” said Vandersee. “I hit it up just short of the green on our first hole, number 10, and I hit an okay chip, it just didn’t come up the way I thought it would. Then I hit a putt off the fringe from about 20 feet up and over a ridge and made that. From then on I was confident. I hit a good drive on the second hole, hit it up to about a foot from 30 yards out and tapped in for birdie. I didn’t make another birdie until 15, I believe. I birdied there from six feet. Then 16, I almost birdied and at 17 I made my only bogey. On 18, I birdied from just off the fringe. Then I just continued to play solid. I chipped in on number two, our 11th hole of the day, for birdie. Then I birdied our 13th and our 17th, so it was a consistent round.

“I felt a little more comfortable out there,” added Vandersee, of his third round. “I had been hitting the ball so well off the tee and putting well. I hit a lot of good putts this week that didn’t drop and I hit a few good ones today that just lipped out, but it was the irons. I started to hit it in close like I knew I could and from there on it was go time.”

Ihm had a consistent day, added by the fact that he hit 15 greens in regulation. He was one over after two holes before draining a birdie putt of over 50 feet on the par three 13th hole. Ihm opened his back nine with a birdie and a bogey on holes one and two, respectively, before ending the day with seven consecutive pars.

Brant and Kelpin each recorded three over scores of 74. Brant was one over par through five holes before three consecutive birdies on holes 15 through 17. He closed his front nine with a bogie for a one-under 35 on his first nine. He closed with a four-over par 39 on the back, but his bogey five on the final hole of the day kept the Hawkeyes in fifth place.

Kelpin shot a one-over 37 on the front and made 10 straight pars heading to the final tee. His drive found trouble on the right side and he concluded the day with a double bogey for a two-over 37 on his final nine of the tournament.

Winslow, from Overland Park, Kan., bounced back from a tough day in the second round to shoot 74 on Saturday. He was two over on his first nine holes before his first birdie of the day came on the par-five 17th. He added birdies on the first and second holes, but went back to one over with bogies on five and six before ending with a double bogey for a 37 on his final nine holes.

Along with the 10th place finish a year ago, Iowa placed 17th at the NCAA Championships in 2009 and missed the 2010 championships by just a single stroke.

Following are the final team standings and individual leaders:

Team Result (Par 71)
1. Alabama 269-276-283=828 (-24)
2. East Carolina 276-281-296=853 (+1)
3. North Florida 271-291-296=858 (+6)
4. Georgia 280-288-296=864 (+12)
5. Iowa 288-293-285=866 (+14)
6. New Mexico 285-290-292=867 (+15)
7. Augusta State 283-296-291=870 (+18)
8. Long Beach State 297-281-294=872 (+20)
T9. Houston 282-296-296=874 (+22)
T9. UNCW 282-295-297=874 (+22)
11. Wake Forest 284-294-302=880 (+28)
12. Texas-Arlington 285-302-297=884 (+32)
13. Loyola-MD 301-300-309=910 (+58)

Individual Results (Top 3 + Iowa)
1. Justin Thomas (Alabama) 67-67-70=204 (-9)
2. Bobby Wyatt (Alabama) 66-67-72=205 (-8)
3. Cory Whitsett (Alabama) 67-68-71=208 (-5)
T8. Ian Vandersee (Iowa) 71-75-66=212 (-1)
T21. Chris Brant (Iowa) 73-70-74=217 (+4)
T29. Barrett Kelpin (Iowa) 71-74-74=219 (+6)
T29. Steven Ihm (Iowa) 74-74-71=219 (+6)
T70. Joseph Winslow (Iowa) 73-84-74=231 (+18)

Following are comments from the Hawkeye players who helped Iowa advance to the NCAA Championships for the third time in the last four years:

Senior Chris Brant:
“It feels good. We, Barrett and I our freshman year, sort of started a tradition. It’s really good to see the fruits of our labor again. It’s good, a good week. We just wanted go about our business, like I said yesterday, pay attention to small things, and it will take care of itself, and we did. We played well today, and Ian played very well. We’re thankful for that.

I played well on the front; I made three birdies in a row on 15 through 17. Other than that, it was not a very good day. That’s why it’s a team game and I’m happy Ian played well. He picked me up.”

Senior Barrett Kelpin:
“It feels really good. Once you’ve been there you always want to go back every year and we knew that if we played well today we’d definitely have a good shot to do it. I’m really glad that we ended up doing what we needed to do to get there.

Being in the position that we were in, I think we knew we just needed to go out and try to play the best that we could. If we didn’t play well we knew that we weren’t going anywhere, so I think the pressure was off for us at the start of the round and we all got off to great starts. I don’t think we were thinking about it too much today really. Everyone knew we needed to play well so we went out there and kind of left it all out there. At the end we were inside by one.

I played well all day, but I didn’t get as much out of the round as I needed to. I was a little disappointed with how I finished, being the second-to-last guy in and with the position that we were in I wanted to make a par or better on the last hole. That was a little disappointing, but I played solid all day. I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens, which I think pretty much the entire team did, which helps out a lot. If you can have a putt for birdie every hole you’re definitely going to score well, so I think that helped us out a lot. We putted the ball well today so we did really well as a team with that.”

Sophomore Steven Ihm:
“I was just very steady-Eddie all day, I hit 15 greens, hit one flagstick, and I think I only missed a couple fairways, so it was just a solid round today. I birdied 13, the par three. I made about a 50-footer on that hole, which is nice. Then I birdied number one again, made about a 15-footer on that one.

There was just another comfort level that we kind of hit as a team today, I think. We were all a little more in the moment and weren’t trying to steer ourselves around the golf course; just trying to play it like we should have been doing.”

Freshman Ian Vandersee:
“We’re looking forward to it. After we kind of celebrate today and realize we reached our goal to make it to the national championship, it’s time to refocus and start to focus on that. We’re going to head out to California with the goal to make it to match-play; that would be my goal. If we can do that then it’s anybody’s game from there.”

Freshman Joseph Winslow:
“I actually started off the same as yesterday, through the first three holes. I just told myself to keep grinding, to have a little more fire today. I just keep going and grinding away, and made some crucial birdies through the middle of the round on my eighth, 10th and 11th holes, that really kept it going. Overall I am pleased with the way I played mentally, but still have to make a few more putts.

On seventeen, I hit a wedge in there to about three feet, made it for birdie. I hit it to about four feel on one, made that for birdie. Then hit it to about 10 feet on two and made a birdie there, so just good ball striking.

Definitely more comfortable out there on the third day, I think that showed for us. It took us a few rounds to get used to the course. Today we put it together and Ian had a great round. That comes with patience and getting to know the golf course.

This has been the goal the entire season, we all wanted to get there. I have watched the Northern Trust enough to know about it. The whole day, it was the motivation; we’re ready to get out there.”