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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.
By BRADY JOHNSON
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Only 16 months ago, University of Iowa junior Steven Ihm was walking off the 18th green at the Odessa Country Club as a national champion. Ihm and his Indian Hills Community College golf team won the 2011 NJCAA Championship, while Ihm placed fourth with a two-over scorecard through four rounds.
Almost the entire summer went by, and Ihm was set on returning to Ottumwa when he got a phone call that would change everything, and ultimately send him on a far different path to Iowa City.
“It was very sudden to be honest,” said Ihm. “I was planning on going back to Indian Hills. I saw coach (Mark Hankins) at a few tournaments that summer, and then he called me two weeks before class started and told me he had a spot for me.”
While it felt sudden to Ihm, it certainly wasn’t for UI head coach Mark Hankins, who made a planned and strategic move when offering Ihm. Hankins had Ihm on his recruiting board late in the summer of 2010, but felt his best option at the time was at Indian Hills.
Hankins kept his eye on Ihm, and was impressed with the four rounds he put together at the NJCAA Championship. Hankins made up his mind to offer Ihm after seeing him play at the Iowa Amateur on Glen Oaks Country Club against tough competition.
“We never lost sight of Steven,” said Hankins. “He was just down the road at Indian Hills and continued to show improvement and put together a great freshman year. After watching him at the Iowa Amatuer, I knew he was a good athlete and was ready to battle for a starting position right away.”
With full confidence coming off a JUCO championship and a good tournament play in the summer, Ihm did what Hankins expected he was capable of — compete for a spot in the starting lineup. Ihm did just that and never gave up his starting position.
Ihm placed second at the Rod Myers Invitational in the fall, cementing his status as a golfer more than capable of performing in the Division I ranks. Ihm would also place eighth at the U.S. Collegiate Championships, and finish the fall season with a 73.53 scoring average.
Ihm continued improving in the spring season en route to becoming a second team All-Big Ten selection. He also had three top-20 finishes in three regular season stroke-play events, and was a major contributor to a team that advanced to the NCAA Regionals for the fourth straight season.
Ihm credits his continued improvement with the Hawkeye program to Hankins ability to develop his mental game.
“Coach really improved my mental game when I got here,” said Ihm. “That’s something I never really had before. It made a big difference for me to be able to have that mental edge.”
Heading into the 2012-13 season, the Hawkeyes will be looking at Ihm for continued solid play on the links and leadership. Ihm is one of just two upperclassmen on the roster, making him as vital a player on the team as any. Ihm is not at all intent on being satisfied with the success he has had the past two seasons.
“As a team, we want to win a couple tournaments and get back to the stage we were on last year,” said Ihm. “As an individual, I want to be one of the better players in the Big Ten. I was second team last year, and I’d love to make first team this year.”