May 15, 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
IOWA CITY, Iowa — In Division I men’s golf, an NCAA Regional tournament is different than any other tournament on the schedule, and University of Iowa head men’s golf coach Mark Hankins knows that well.
Team goals for most regular season invitational consists of shooting the best team score possible and improvement. In NCAA Regional play, the outlook is much less ambiguous; place in the top-five and advance to the NCAA Finals or place outside the top-five and enter the offseason.
The Hawkeye men’s golf team will be looking for that all-important top-five finish at the NCAA Tallahassee Regional this week on the Golden Eagle Country Club in Tallahassee, Fla. Iowa is the No. 10 seed at the three-round tournament, which will tee off Thursday and conclude Saturday.
“At an NCAA Regional tournament, there are no other options; you have to place in the top-five or you don’t advance and the season is over,” said Hankins. “In other tournaments, you might be happy just to say you played well and shot a certain number. This isn’t like that, but you still have to be realistic, set your goals and game plan accordingly.”
Hankins is a seasoned veteran of postseason play, taking teams to NCAA postseason competition is 12-of-15 seasons as a Division I head men’s golf coach. He took Texas-Arlington to NCAA play in both seasons as a head coach, advanced Michigan State to NCAA Regionals in 5-of-7 seasons and has now led the Hawkeyes to five consecutive NCAA appearances.
“At an NCAA Regional tournament, there are no other options; you have to place in the top-five or you don’t advance and the season is over. In other tournaments, you might be happy just to say you played well and shot a certain number. This isn’t like that, but you still have to be realistic, set your goals and game plan accordingly.”
UI head coach Mark Hankins
The sixth-year Iowa head coach has plenty of experience with the ‘do-or-die’ element of NCAA Regionals, and knows that it’s vital to treat the event just like any other fixture on the schedule. The Hawkeyes travel to Tallahassee with the same goals they’ve had all season — adapt to the golf course and all circumstances, focus on individual goals first and shoot the best possible score each day.
“It doesn’t change how we play or what we focus on,” said Hankins. “We’ll stick to our same process and worry only about the things we can control. If our guys can focus on achieving their individual goals and give 100 percent mentally and physically each day, that’s all I can ask for.”
The Hawkeyes have qualified for NCAA Regional action in five straight seasons. The program has a track record of success at the event, qualifying for the NCAA finals in three of the last four seasons. The only blemish on that record came in the 2010 NCAA Regionals where Iowa missed a top-five finish by a single stroke.
If the 10th-seeded Hawkeyes are to continue their NCAA streak, they’ll have to place in the top-five of a quality 13-team field. Iowa will be joined by, in order of their respective seeding, Washington, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Forth Florida, Oklahoma, North Carolina State, Oregon, Oregon State, South Florida, San Diego, and Loyola Maryland.
The Hawkeyes should be confident in their ability entering the regional considering they’ve seen many of the same teams before and are coming off three consecutive top-three finishes. Iowa placed third two weeks ago at the Big Ten Championships in French Lick, Ind.
When the Tallahassee regional comes down to crunch time, Hankins insists that you can throw away seeding and past weeks’ results.
“That all goes out the window,” said Hankins. “What seed you are or whether or not you qualified last year won’t matter when you get to the final 18 (holes), which is where these tournaments get decided.”
The most important factor in team and individual success at NCAA tournaments typically comes down to adapting, just like any other stroke play tournament, according to Hankins. Players have to adapt to course conditions, weather and they’re own game on the fly, while maintaining their focus throughout the three days in order to reach their goals.
The Hawkeyes spent the weekend at Brown Deer Golf Club, a course that somewhat resembles the Golden Eagle Country Club, while beginning the adapting process that is necessary once they arrive in Florida.
“Our first goal is to adapt, and that’s why we compete on different courses in preparation for this,” said Hankins. “Anytime you can pull the guys away from their comfort zone and away from business as usual, it does a good job of getting their mind active. Adapting is our first goal, and we will get down to Tallahassee with that mindset.”
Iowa had its practice round today under sunny skies at the Golden Eagle Country Club, and got its first look at the golf course. The Hawkeyes played a full 18 holes and spend the afternoon on the driving range and putting green.
“It has the feel of a course we’ve seen in Atlanta, and I think the guys feel comfortable with that,” said Hankins. “The greens are holding pretty well and it’s a nice golf course.”
Iowa brings a lineup that has shown significant improvement in the spring, led by junior Steven Ihm and sophomore Joseph Winslow. Ihm was a first team All-Big Ten selection after carding the third-best stroke average in program history, a 72.28. Meanwhile, Winslow was named second team All-Big Ten and earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Championship Team. He is coming off back-to-back top-five finishes and has the team’s second best round average.
Ihm and Winslow will be joined by sophomores Brian Bullington, Ian Vandersee and freshman Nate Yankovich. Bullington has posted three-straight top-24 finishes with a 73.92 spring season stroke average. Vandersee played three rounds at or below par in the spring, led by a top-11 finish. Yankovich played every spring tournament and carded his first career top-20 finish at the Hawkeye-Great River Entertainment Invitational.
Live results of the 2013 NCAA Tallahassee Regional are available at www.golfstat.com. Stay tuned to complete coverage of the Tallahassee regional at hawkeyesports.com.