Men's Golf Impressive in Match Play Openers

Feb. 21, 2013

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 — University of Iowa men’s golf coach Mark Hankins has never shied away from scheduling tough competition. Hankins wants his athletes prepared when postseason play rolls around later in the spring. One of the ways Hankins prepares his golfers early in the spring season is by scheduling match play events. Judging by this year’s results, his guys were ready for the challenge.

Hankins and the Hawkeyes opened the 2013 spring season by participating in two match play events; the Big Ten Match Play (Feb. 8-9) and the Big Four Match Play Championships (Feb. 16). The Hawkeyes collected an impressive 21.5-5.5 record in five matches, finishing third in the Big Ten Match Play and winning the Big Four Match Play.

Iowa started the season with a 4-1 victory over Purdue in the Big Ten Match Play, advancing to the semifinals. The Hawkeyes rebounded after a tough 3-2 loss against Michigan State to finish third, defeating Ohio State, 3.5-1.5.

The Hawkeyes dominated their instate rivals at the Big Four Match Play, knocking off Drake (6-0) and Iowa State (5-1) to claim the title.

“We are trying to practice for ultimate goal, which is making the top eight at the NCAA Championships. You want to be prepared for that when the opportunity is there, and that’s why we focus on match play every year.”
UI head coach Mark Hankins

Hankins wants the added pressure that match play provides to test his players early in the season.

“In match play there is pressure on every single shot,” Hankins said. “You are trying to win each hole and you have that continual urgency during the round. That gets our guys more in tune with their competitive drive. They are getting that competitive edge back quicker than they would by going out and shooting in the mid 70’s in stroke play and working back into a rhythm.”

In 2009, the NCAA added match play back into the postseason tournament. After 54 holes of play at the NCAA Championships, the top eight teams advance to a match play bracket to determine the NCAA champion. Iowa has come close to qualifying for match play and that is the goal.

“We are trying to practice for ultimate goal, which is making the top eight at the NCAA Championships,” Hankins said. “You want to be prepared for that when the opportunity is there, and that’s why we focus on match play every year.”

While the tournament format is different than the majority of the season, Hankins believes match play helps his golfers work on skills that are important, no matter the tournament.

“It shows our guys that you need to stay in the present and trust your teammates,” Hankins said. “All of that comes from the fact that match play is very personal. You either win a point or lose a point for your team. There is no middle ground.

“Many of our tournaments are individually based,” Hankins said. “We want our guys to shoot the best score they can as an individual, and the team score will take care of itself. Match play can really show the team how to play with that mindset. It’s head-to-head and no one on the team wants to lose. That can really help us down the road.”

The Hawkeyes have more than 30 days off until their next competition, so the focus shifts from developing competitive fire through match play to academic and athletic balance for the athletes.

“We need to be academically sound early in the season,” Hankins said. “The first round of tests in the classroom are coming up, so our guys need to take care of that while we have a little break.

“We also need to be physically sound. Morning workouts will continue and our guys will keep getting in better shape. Walking 36 holes a day isn’t easy. Our team needs to be in top physical shape so they can focus on their game.”