April 24, 2015
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- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Monday, Aug. 4, 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 2014-15 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 JAMES ALLAN
Ihm is enjoying the best season of her Hawkeye career, shaving more than three strokes off her career scoring average. She has a 76.83 scoring average over 29 rounds; she had a 79.96 average in her first two seasons.
“She’s a totally different player,” said Menzel. “It has been fun to see her pull off the shots she is hitting. She has consistently been striking the ball well, and when you have a good short game to back it up, you’re going to be golden wherever you go.
“She believes she belongs. I think she always knew, but it takes a little bit of success for it to kick in. She made the comment to me a few weeks ago that she’s addicted to competitive golf because every time she is out there, she knows she has a chance to put together a good performance and lead the team.”
Ihm’s addiction to the sport began when she was four, after her family moved to a home on Thunder Hills Golf Course in Peosta, Iowa. That led to Ihm joining the course’s junior golf program and competing on a local town tour.
She spent hours on end on the golf course with her golf-addicted family. Her dad, Jim, played collegiately at Wisconsin-Eau Claire, her sister, Ashley Johnson, golfed at Clarke, and her brother, Steven, wrapped up an All-America career with the Hawkeyes in 2014.
“My dad and brother pushed me to be a better player,” said Ihm. “Growing up I always looked up to Steven. We have pushed each other ever since we were little.
“Steven had a good career (at Iowa) and I want to match him. He always pushes me to get better.”
Ihm competed in volleyball, basketball, and golf at Dubuque Wahlert (Iowa) High School, but when push came to shove, she knew golf was her ticket.
“I knew I always wanted to further my career in golf,” she said. “I was a big volleyball player in high school, but I when I weighed the two (sports), I could go farther in golf and push myself. I did that in high school, and that’s when I knew I was ready to play at a higher level.”
Ihm was a two-time first-team all-state selection in high school, but Menzel didn’t know much about Ihm before she ended up at the UI.
“Amy kind of fell into our laps,” said Menzel. “We were fortunate to have her come to Iowa. Having her brother here made her want to be closer and being an in-state kid, she was excited to be a Hawkeye.
“I didn’t know a ton about her, but I knew she came from good genes and was excited to have her come. She is a great personality to have on the team.”
Ihm competed in nine tournaments in her first two seasons, posting a 79.47 scoring average over five events as a freshman and an 80.64 average over four competitions as a sophomore. Her best finish in her first two years was a tie for 24th at the Hurricane Invitational in Miami, Florida.
“My first two years here were a huge growing process,” said Ihm. “I learned not only a lot about myself and my game, but the level it needs to be.”
Through the ups and downs, Ihm’s attitude remained positive and upbeat, a trait Menzel admires.
“Coaches come up to me all the time and say they wish they had five players on their team with that great of an attitude,” said Menzel. “That’s a huge advantage if you’re someone that’s positive. She has had some adversity and had to find a way to get into the lineup.”
Ihm came back to campus and played her way into the Iowa lineup as a junior. She posted the best finish of her career during the fall, tying for fifth place at the Diane Thomason Invitational at Finkbine Golf Course with a 230 (+14).
“Whenever you finish in the top-five, top-10, it’s going to be a confidence-booster,” she said. “It isn’t what I wanted, but it built my confidence.”
Ihm’s solid play continued in the spring when she was Iowa’s top finisher in the first four tournaments. After a 44th-place showing at the Puerto Rico Classic, Ihm posted a career-best 54-hole total at the Westbrook Invitational, carding a two-over par 218 to tie for 22nd. She posted a 220 (+4) at the BYU Entrada Classic to place 12th, and a 219 (+3) at the Mountain View Collegiate in Arizona.
“I’ve learned a lot since I have been here,” said Ihm. “One of the main things is managing the course. I came in a big hitter, but I have learned to step back and have more control and patience. That has elevated my game and allowed me to become a better player.”
Heading into this week’s 2015 Big Ten Championships, which run from April 24-26 in Indianapolis, Ihm wants to stay focused, remain calm, and stay patient. It’s a trait that comes naturally.
“The thing I love about Amy is she doesn’t get too far ahead of herself,” said Menzel. “She takes everything in stride, and we coach them that way.
“I don’t hear Amy talking a lot about the future; she’s more of an ‘I’m going to enjoy the moment and have a heck of a good time type,'” said Menzel. “That’s a healthy perspective and I like that about her; it keeps the whole team focused on the task at hand.”
Menzel believes the sky is the limit for Ihm.
“From what I have seen the last few weeks and couple of months, she can do whatever she wants to,” said Menzel. “It will be exciting to see what she chooses and what her passion decides to be when she’s done at Iowa.”
Ihm isn’t ready to think about life as a former Hawkeye.
“This is one journey I am not ready to say goodbye to,” she said. “It has been a heck of a ride and I want to go out on a good note. This summer, I am going to get after it, play in a lot of tournaments to get experience, and try to get better.”