May 25, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The University of Iowa men’s golf team is prepared to make its third NCAA Championship appearance in four years. The Hawkeyes will compete alongside 30 of the nation’s best golf programs at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California May 29-June 3. In advance of their trip to the west coast, Head Coach Mark Hankins and his Hawkeyes hosted a media day at their own Finkbine Golf Course in Iowa City.
“We’re excited and we’re carrying a little bit of confidence,” Hankins said of his team’s momentum heading into the Championships. “With golf, it’s a different course every time you play a tournament so our focus right now is trying to figure out what this golf course is about, what kind of challenges we’re going to have to face out there and try to become as familiar as we can with the course before we get out there. We are just looking forward to the competition against 29 other great teams.”
Nicknamed “Hogan’s Alley” after PGA legend Ben Hogan won a pair of Los Angeles Opens and a U.S. Open on it in a span of 18 months, the Riviera Country Club first opened in 1927. Riviera has played host to multiple Los Angeles Opens, the 1948 U.S. Open, two PGA Championships, a U.S. Senior Open and the annual Northern Trust Open. Nearly unmoved since its opening, the par 71 Riviera has produced champions such as Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo, Fred Couples, Craig Stadler, Hale Irwin and Ben Hogan.
“It’s going to be very exciting,” said senior Barrett Kelpin on his opportunity to compete at Riviera. “None of us have played there but we’ve seen it on TV every year for the Northern Trust. We’ve seen what it looks like and it should be pretty sweet. It has a lot of tradition and it’ll be fun to go out to California. It’ll be a new experience and one we’re all excited to embark on together.”
Iowa has advanced to the Championships with a dynamic team consisting of two seniors (Kelpin and Chris Brant), one sophomore (Steven Ihm), and two freshmen (Ian Vandersee and Joseph Winslow). Despite the strong contrast in experience, the Hawkeyes have been able to mesh and compete at the highest collegiate level.
“It’s a little bit different than last year,” said Brant on Iowa’s young team. “With [Brad] Hopfinger and [Vince] India graduating, we’ve had some younger guys come in. They’ve really picked up their fair share of the slack. They’re doing well and we’re really proud of them.”
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.