Sept. 16, 2012
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BURLINGTON, Iowa — University of Iowa men’s junior golfer Steven Ihm sits on top of the leaderboard through the first round at the 15-team Golfweek Conference Challenge. The Peosta, Iowa, native fired a four-under par, 68, sharing the lead with Missouri’s Jace Long.
The Hawkeyes, representing the Big Ten, are in third place as a team, posting a mark of 292 (+4); just six strokes back of current leader Missouri (286), of the SEC. Action is being held at the par-72 Spirit Hollow Golf Course in Burlington, Iowa, the state’s top ranked course.
“It was a pretty solid day for me,” said Ihm, who earned second team All-Big Ten honors last season. “I got off to a great start, which is important on a tough course like this. My confidence heading into tomorrow will be high, not overly high, but I’ll definitely feel comfortable.”
Iowa’s four counting scores went lower than the field stroke average (76.32), and each Hawkeye competitor is in the top-40. Sophomores Ian Vandersee and Brian Bullington each finished with a two-over, 74 to place tied for 19th. Sophomore Joseph Winslow was two strokes behind, tying for 33rd with a 76. Junior Ryan Marks tied for 40th after carding a 77.
“We got off to a good start, and just hung in there from that point,” said UI head coach Mark Hankins. “We had four decent scores to complement Steven’s round, and all five guys were in the battle the entire day. You can’t win any golf tournament on the first day so it’s matter of controlling emotions and staying positive to post a solid round.”
Ihm’s round got off to a blistering start, as he made birdie on his first four holes. After a bogey on hole No. 7, Ihm made his fifth birdie of the front nine on hole No. 8 to shoot a four-under 32 on the front side. Ihm would get to six-under, with birdies on holes No. 10 and 11, before playing the final seven holes at two-over par after a double-bogey on No. 16.
Ihm had seven birdies on the day, which tied for first in the field along with Long. Ihm played the par-fives three-under, and was one-under on the par-fours.
Bullington also started fast, getting to four-under through six holes after birdies on holes No. 2 and No. 6 and an eagle on the par-five fourth. Only three other players in the field made eagle on No. 4. The Frankfort, Ill., native finished one-under on the front nine. Bullington birdied the par-four 13th hole, and would finish three-over on the final nine.
Vandersee played a consistent round for the Hawkeyes, as only six players in the field finished with more pars than him. Vandersee started on the front nine, and shot one-over with a birdie on No. 4. Vandersee carded the same mark on the back nine, this time with a birdie on No. 16.
Winslow carded an even par on the front nine with consecutive birdies on No. 3 and 4. Winslow went to one-under after a birdie on No. 10, but would finish the day at four-over after bogeys on No. 16 and 17.
After opening at four-over par through eight holes, Marks played the final 10 holes at just one-over par to finish with a 77. Marks was one of only nine players in the field to make birdie on No. 16.
“We’ll go into tomorrow with the same strategy as today,” said Hankins. “We came in with a good game plan, and I think we saved some shots for tomorrow. The condition will be entirely different so we need to continue to learn and play the golf course that is in front of us”.
The second day of action at the Golfweek Conference Challenge will resume on Monday, with tee times running from 9 a.m. through 11:20 a.m. off holes No. 1 and No. 10.