May 14, 2013
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- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Monday, Aug. 6, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2012-13 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
By ERIC CLARK
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Brian Bullington never doubted that the University of Iowa was the place for him. Despite a freshman men’s golf campaign that allowed him to play in only a couple events, Bullington took initiative in the offseason to sharpen his game and become stronger in the weight room.
“He really committed himself (over the summer),” said UI head coach Mark Hankins. “When he came back, he was transformed. He lost some weight, was in better shape, and was stronger. He continues to gain confidence from those factors as he continues to play a full schedule.”
The Frankfort, Ill., native is familiar with success, as he was ranked as the top junior golfer in Illinois during his senior year at Lincoln-Way East.
During the summer of 2011, he won a PGA Junior Tour event and qualified for match-play at the U.S. Junior Open. Minimal collegiate play during his freshman season provided the motivation to polish his game, and those improvements have allowed him to play in every event since his freshman year. Bullington is one of only three UI golfers to compete in every meet this spring, joining fellow sophomore Ian Vandersee and junior Steven Ihm.
“It has been a pretty good year,” Bullington said. “I’ve made a lot of steps forward, but I’ve still got a lot of room for improvement.”
Bullington’s 2013 spring campaign has consisted of one round at or below par, which came at the U.S. Intercollegiate Tournament in Palo Alto, Calif., in late March. His 54-round score of 214 (+4) earned him his lowest score of the season.
Hankins said Bullington’s work ethic exemplifies the potential he possesses.
“He’s willing to put in just as much time as anyone else on the golf course,” Hankins said. “He’s committed himself to becoming a better physical athlete as well.”
The sixth-year head coach said he has been able to trust Bullington to avoid high-scoring rounds all season.
“His mental approach to the game has improved dramatically, and that’s what has made him so consistent this year,” Hankins said. “He wants his scores to be lower, and he’s looking for ways to get it down. He’s a smart guy and understands his game.”
The Hawkeyes earned bronze at the Big Ten Championships at the Pete Dye Golf Course in French Lick, Ind., on April 28, a finish that wasn’t very satisfying for Bullington. The Hawkeyes, however, did earn a spot in the NCAA Tallahassee Regional, which will be hosted by Florida State University on May 16-18.
“I’m OK with (our finish at the Big Ten Championships), but it’s not where we wanted to finish as a team,” Bullington said. “There were a lot of things I learned there that I can put to use at regionals.”
Hankins said he hasn’t set a particular goal for Bullington for their upcoming meet, but he expects the team to perform well despite their unfamiliarity with the golf course.
“I always ask our guys to pick their own goals,” Hankins said. “If (Bullington) was to finish in the top-25, that would be really good for him. That would put him in a situation where he is contributing a lot for this team.”
Bullington says he expects to perform “highly” in Tallahassee.
“With the five guys that we have, and with the way I’m playing, I think we can win,” he said. “As long as we just go out and do our thing, we’ll be OK.”
And for the future? Bullington is aiming as high as any other collegiate golfer.
“I want to be an All-American,” he said.