July 10, 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.
SILVIS, Ill. — While the tour pros in this week’s John Deere Classic field will be sporting sponsorship logos on their apparel at TPC Club Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., a familiar face will be donning a Tigerhawk logo on his chest.
“It is awesome,” said Hawkeye senior Steven Ihm about representing his institution in a PGA Tour event. “It is great for the program, and I am happy I can do this for the program. We have a good golf team. I like sporting Iowa gear; I am proud of it.”
Ihm is playing in his first PGA event this week. The Peosta, Iowa, native opens play in the annual John Deere Classic on Thursday at 9 a.m. (CT).
Tuesday, Ihm had the opportunity to play a practice round with Iowa native, Hawkeye fan, and defending tournament champion Zach Johnson.
“I got a good feel for the course,” said Ihm, a 2013 first team All-Big Ten selection. “It is nice to get out here and practice. It was fun to battle back-and-forth. It was awesome; he (Zach) is a good guy.”
Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, has quite the resume. He noted Ihm’s amateur experiences and reminisced about similarities from his first PGA experience.
“The similarity was we had sponsor’s exemptions, so that would probably be it,” said Johnson. “My resume as an amateur paled in comparison to what his is already. That’s where the similarities stop. He has already won a massive amateur event in Pennsylvania. He was exempt for this. He was exempt for that, and he’s not even a senior in college yet.
“I was trying to crack the top three on my college team. We’re both Iowans. There is another similarity. But, great kid, great demeanor. It seems like he’s a bit mature beyond his young years.”
Johnson noticed a confidence in Ihm, and pointed to the success of the Iowa men’s golf program.
“Steven looks hungry, and it’s good to see,” said Johnson. “He has a good team and great coach — (Mark) Hankins is doing a great job there. He came from a great facility, and they’re doing good things at Iowa.”
Ihm was able to get advice from Johnson, who won his first PGA event in 2004, during Tuesday’s round.
“We had great conversation,” said Johnson. “The advice I gave them (Ihm, Stanford junior Patrick Rodgers) is they’ve got to pick it apart. It’s not exactly set in stone. It may work for me, but it may not work for them. They play different games.
“They both asked me good questions. Nothing too strategic with the golf course, but what are you doing during the practice round? What are you looking for two days out before the tournament? That kind of thing. There were questions off the golf course, which is good. I thought that was pretty mature of them to ask those kind of questions.
“We had a great time. They are both really nice gentlemen with deep resumes. Both are quality players at quality institutions. I think, unfortunately, I am going to be playing against them pretty soon on a regular basis.”
For Ihm, the time to tee off between the ropes has finally arrived.
“I am more excited than anything,” said Ihm. “It has been building up to this all summer. It is nice to finally be here, and it was fun having a crowd here today. It was a good day; it was what I needed.”
“This week, there is nothing to lose,” said Hankins. “He can go out and play golf, and if he makes the cut and gets into the weekend, it is going to be a great thing for not only him, but this golf tournament. He is going to bring people out that will be excited to see him and help support the Hawkeyes and Steven Ihm.”