Finding Their Groove

April 1, 2014

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s April edition of Hawk Talk Monthly, the UI athletics department’s online publication.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Entering the home stretch of its spring slate, the University of Iowa men’s golf team is finding its groove at the right time.

The Hawkeyes opened the spring with a fourth-place finish at the Big Ten Match Play Championships before winning the annual Big Four Exhibition over Drake, Northern Iowa and Iowa State.

In its last outing, Iowa closed out the Arizona State University Thunderbird Invitational on March 23 in second out of the 15-team field, its best finish of the 2013-14 season. The Hawkeyes finished -15 for the tournament with a total of 837.

Junior Brian Bullington and senior Steven Ihm were the top performers for Iowa, finishing in third and tying for fourth, respectively. Bullington posted a final round score of 68 (-3) to close the event with a 206 (-7), clinching the best finish of his career. Ihm carded a 70 (-1) in his final round to push his total score to 207 (-6), notching his best finish of the season.

“I feel like this tournament was different,” said UI head coach Mark Hankins. “We showed that we could shoot some under-par rounds. We had a lot of resolve on the last day to come out and play the second-best round of the tournament while we were in contention and blew out some other teams. We put some distance between us and Arizona.”

Iowa finished 10 strokes ahead of third-place finisher Arizona (847).

“That was our best tournament so far this spring,” said Hankins. “We had three of our guys step up and be leaders. Ian (Vandersee), Steven, and Brian finally earned some accolades. Brian has been Mr. 73, 74 for us, and he finally comes out and earns a high finish. He earned a trophy and was named Big Ten Player of the Week to hopefully get him over the hump.”

The Hawkeyes are back in action on April 12-13 in the Hawkeye-Great River Entertainment Invitational, their lone home tournament of the spring season at Finkbine Golf Course. Iowa earned a second place finish in last year’s event.

“There isn’t a better opportunity to win a golf tournament than on your own golf course,” said Hankins. “You do have to beat seven other guys on your team here at Iowa to win. You also have to beat a Kansas team that beat us last year here. We have a nice Midwestern field, including five other Big Ten teams.”

Iowa then travels to the Boilermaker Invitational (Apr. 19-20) before heading to the Big Ten Championships in French Lick, Ind., May 2-4.

The Hawkeyes’ depth and intra-squad competition will keep pushing the group through the stretch run.

“We have played pretty well at Purdue the last couple years,” said Hankins. “Then we get a week off this year before traveling to Big Ten’s. We have a core group of guys, but there will be some inner-squad competition leading up to our invite, and then we’re going to have to figure out who plays well at the Hawkeye and who will compete at Purdue.”

Iowa is looking to make its sixth-straight NCAA Regional appearance this season.