April 12, 2016
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa —
Last season the Hawkeyes placed third at the Hawkeye Invitational which spurred a runner-up finish the following week at the Big Ten Conference Championships. Iowa’s 2016 schedule is similar and so is the importance the team places on its home event in the spring that will be held April 16-17 at Finkbine Golf Course.
“We looked at this tournament a year ago and we finished third and then we went and had a great Big Ten Championships,” UI head coach Tyler Stith said Tuesday at a media gathering at the Hoak Family Golf Complex. “Playing well here gives us a good final preparation for the Big Ten Championships.”
The Hawkeyes are hitting their stride at an opportune time. Last weekend at the Arizona State Thunderbird Invitational in Tempe, they shot 839, a season-low this season for 54 holes. Freshman Matthew Walker was seventh with a 7-under 206; junior Raymond Knoll and senior Nate Yankovich tied for 14th at 1-under 212.
“Golf is a strange sport, it’s all about when you get hot and if you get hot at the right time, the sky is the limit,” Yankovich said. “I think we’re going to be peaking at the right time.”
It will also be nice for the Hawkeyes to play competitively in the state of Iowa, something they haven’t done since winning their GolfWeek Conference Challenge from Sept. 25-27 in Burlington.
“It gives our players a tremendous advantage to be able to play against some of the nation’s elite on our home golf course,” Stith said. “It is something we look forward to and we’re excited about.”
“If we have five guys going for an individual title, the team is going to be in position o win.”
UI men’s golf coach
Among the 14 teams competing this weekend are SMU, Kansas State, Kansas and Big Ten rivals Minnesota and Nebraska.
“We know we have to play well to win,” Stith said. “We have to be on top of our game.”
Knoll was at the top of his game in September when the Hawkeyes won the GolfWeek Challenge by three strokes over North Carolina State. Knoll won medalist honors (-11, 205) and Yankovich was fifth (-7, 209).
“Gaining momentum, especially on our home golf course, will be key going into the rest of the year,” Knoll said. “It’s always nice to play a home event because it is comforting and exciting. You have a home crowd out there with a lot of Hawkeye fans coming to watch.”
The Hawkeye Invitational begins at 9 a.m. (CT) on both Saturday and Sunday. Since 2010, Iowa has won the event four times (2010, 2011, 2012, 2014) and was runner-up in 2013.
Stith would like to see all five Hawkeyes vying for medalist honors Sunday.
“If we have five guys going for an individual title, the team is going to be in position to win,” Stith said.
The Big Ten Championships are April 22-24 in Newburgh, Indiana.