April 26, 2013
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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
FRENCH LICK, Ind. — On a windy day at the nationally-recognized Pete Dye Course,the University of Iowa men’s golf team spent Thursday’s practice round familiarizing themselves with every inch of the course. While the 2013 Big Ten Championships certainly won’t be decided before all four rounds are complete, a quality practice round goes a long way in preparing each student-athlete for a quality performance.
UI head coach Mark Hankins placed two fake holes on each green as the Hawkeyes simulated every possible approach and pin placement. Tedious as it may be, becoming students of the course in the practice round can help Iowa win the war before the battle has begun.
“It’s really a process and a challenge to get comfortable on a golf course that you’ve only seen once,” said Hankins. “It our goal to look around more than we’re trying to hit every shot, make sure to get comfortable with the speed and feel of the greens and go over every scenario. After that point, you just have to go out and adapt to current conditions and play what’s in front of you.”
The Big Ten Championships, hosted at French Lick for the second straight season, gets underway with 36 holes on Friday. The four-round tournament will begin with a shotgun start at 7 a.m. (CT).
“You have to understand that this is really just another competition against 11 other solid teams. This is one more tournament that counts toward our NCAA qualification, and in that sense, it isn’t more important than any other tournament we’ve played this season. We have to go out and execute, and earn our opportunity to compete for a top finish.”
UI head coach Mark Hankins
Thoughts of the postseason bring about elevated emotions in typical sports. But, in such a mental sport as golf, it’s vital to keep those emotions in check. For the Iowa golf team that has been living by such phrases as ‘one stroke at a time’ all season, the squad will be just as steady as ever.
“You have to understand that this is really just another competition against 11 other solid teams,” said Hankins. “This is one more tournament that counts toward our NCAA qualification, and in that sense, it isn’t more important than any other tournament we’ve played this season. We have to go out and execute, and earn our opportunity to compete for a top finish.”
Iowa’s five-man lineup enters the conference tournament with back-to-back strong finishes under its belt. The Hawkeyes were runners-up by one stroke at the Hawkeye-Great River Entertainment Invitational with a three-round total of 868 (+4). Iowa won its first title of the season last week at the 18-team Boilermaker Invitational, sharing the championship with Louisville at 14-over (878).
Junior Steven Ihm has led the charge for the Hawkeyes after claiming back-to-back medalist honors. The Peosta, Iowa, native was named Big Ten Men’s Golfer of the Week on Wednesday for his performance at the Boilermaker Invitational, where he became the first Hawkeye to win consecutive tournaments since Brad Schuchat in 1970.
Ihm tallied five-under (211) tournaments in consecutive weeks and has played eight of his last nine rounds under par. He has a team-best 71.96 stroke average, and has provided Iowa’s highest individual finish at each tournament this spring.
It hasn’t been a one-man show for the Hawkeyes, though, as Iowa has carded a 289.33 scoring average this spring thanks to solid play throughout the lineup. Sophomores Joseph Winslow, Ian Vandersee and Brian Bullington and freshman Nate Yankovich look to continue their success along with Ihm as Iowa’s lineup begins to hit its stride.
“We need to compete this week to achieve individual goals and let the team score take care of itself,” said Hankins. “Control the things you can control and fight for every shot for four rounds is all I ask. Do our best in these ways and we will put ourselves in contention.”
The Hawkeyes have five top-five finishes this season playing the nation’s 19th strongest schedule according to Golfweek.com. Hankins and the Hawkeyes are shooting for a sixth this weekend in French Lick.
After Friday’s 36 holes, the third round will be played Saturday at 8 a.m. (CT). The final round will tee off Sunday at 7 a.m. (CT). Live results are available at golfstat.com. Stay tuned to hawkeyesports.com for complete coverage of the Big Ten Championships.