July 8, 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.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — When University of Iowa men’s golfer Steven Ihm begins John Deere Classic festivities this week in the Quad Cities, he isn’t there just to take in the experience.
“I want to compete, I don’t just want to show up and play,” said Ihm, a senior from Peosta, Iowa. “I want to put up some good numbers and make the cut. I want to try and be in there on Saturday and Sunday, playing with the best guys in the world. This is my chance.”
It is a chance that might not have happened had Ihm not taken action into his own hands. When he knew he was going to miss the Deere qualifier, he wrote a letter to the tournament director vying for a sponsor’s exemption. He got the call informing him he’d been granted the exemption within days.
“I mailed it on a Wednesday, and they called me the Tuesday morning before we left for NCAA Regionals,” said Ihm. “I was on the golf course (when I found out). It was a strange number, and I picked the phone up. Clair (Peterson) said, ‘I got your letter, and you put a lot of time in it. I want to let you know you got in.’ I was so ecstatic and excited.”
“I want to compete, I don’t just want to show up and play. I want to put up some good numbers and make the cut. I want to try and be in there on Saturday and Sunday, playing with the best guys in the world. This is my chance.”
UI senior Steven Ihm
Over the last month, Ihm has been spending a lot of time at Deere Run to learn the lay of the course, although he knows the conditions this week will have a different feel when laid out as a PGA event.
“It will be firmed up and the greens will be a little bit quicker and faster,” said Ihm. “I am looking forward to the challenge. The course fits my game really well, and I know I can put up some good numbers.”
Ihm believes consistency with his driver and his ability to make putts will allow him to compete.
“There are a few holes like No. 6 and No. 11 where you really have to strike a tee shot,” he said. “If you miss it right, you’re in jail, and if you miss it left, you’re probably just as bad. I think I’ll be able to keep the ball in play in the fairway and make a couple of putts out there.”
Ihm will play a nine-hole practice round with defending John Deere Classic champion Zach Johnson on Tuesday. A week ago, he had an opportunity to play with Steve Stricker, the winner of the 2009, 2010, and 2011 John Deere Classic, and Ihm’s favorite golfer.
“I sent him a letter in the fall out of the blue, telling him he was one of my favorite players and that I have looked up to him,” said Ihm. “His agent got back to me, later that fall, and I got to play 18 holes with him, and it was awesome. He is such a genuine guy, everything I expected him to be.”
After being a spectator at the last three John Deere Classics, Ihm knows this one will be different.
“It is kind of eye-opening for me that I am going to be on the other side of the ropes playing with them,” he said. “I am pretty level-headed. I don’t think I’ll get too nervous, maybe a little bit of first tee jitters, but who doesn’t have them in their first event?”
After winning the 60th annual Sunnehanna Amateur in June — a tournament that has been won by the likes of Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson, Lucas Glover, Scott Verplank and Ben Crenshaw — Ihm says his confidence is in a good place.
“It gave me loads of confidence in me being able to go out and do what I wanted to do,” said Ihm. “It was awesome to beat all the top players in the world because almost all of them were there. It was me figuring out and now knowing that I can compete with those guys.”
Now Ihm has his sights set on competing with the professionals, a feat he hopes will be a regular occurrence in the coming years.
“It will be a great measure of what I could be able to accomplish in the future,” he said. “It’s still a ways out and golf is a crazy sport. It will be a great test of my game and how I’ll be able to handle myself when crowds are around and when the pressure is on.”
First round action at the John Deere Classic begins Thursday at 7 a.m. (CT).