IOWA CITY, Iowa — If University of Iowa freshmen Jack Simpson and Alex Schaake were nervous for their first Big Ten Men’s Golf Championships, they surely did not let it show at the Baltimore Country Club from April 28-30.
In the biggest tournament of their young Hawkeye careers, the duo shined, registering personal bests to help the Hawkeyes to a fourth-place finish.
Simpson was the top finisher for the Hawkeyes. The Aurora, Ontario, native carded a career best, 54-hole score of 214 (+4; 74, 68, 72) to tie for 16th overall. His bogey-free second round score 68 (-2) marked an 18-hole career best.
“I actually got off to a really slow start during the first round,” said Simpson. “I was three-over-par through three holes and I had a few bad breaks. Fortunately, I kept it together and grinded out the rest of the round. Heading into the second round I knew that I was doing all the right things to put together a really solid round and I was able to do just that.
“Going bogey free was just the icing on the cake for me. It gave me the confidence knowing I could play a tough golf course with a clean scorecard.”
His second round proved to be huge for a Hawkeye team that struggled in the second round.
“Jack really stepped up,” said UI head coach Tyler Stith. “We were struggling in the second round and his 68 held us together. A top-20 finish in his first Big Ten Championships will give him a lot of confidence.”
“It was an awesome experience competing with the best players in the Big Ten,” said Simpson. “It gave me a lot of confidence going forward, especially with (NCAA) Regionals right around the corner. It is good knowing I’m not too far off.”
One day later, it was Schaake’s turn to step up. The Omaha, Nebraska, native carded a four-under-par 66, marking the lowest 18-hole total of his career. His bogey free round was highlighted by birdies on holes 4, 5, 6, and 12. He jumped an impressive 29 spots on the leaderboard in round three to finish in a tie for 29th in his conference championship debut.
“It was an awesome experience,” Schaake said. “I’ve been watching Carson (Alex’s brother and senior teammate) for the past few years and I got to be there when he won in 2015. It is a dream of mine to win a Big Ten Championship. I feel like shooting a 66 in the final round is going to be a big help going into next year’s tournament. Now I know I can play well here.”
Now, the confident duo will get a taste of their first NCAA Regional. The Hawkeyes, who earned their ninth straight NCAA Regional bid on May 4, will compete at the Baton Rouge Regional from May 15-17. The event– hosted by LSU — will be held at the par-72 University Club in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“Alex and Jack stepped up last week when we needed it,” said Stith. “They gained a lot of confidence and I know their teammates gained a lot of confidence in them. I expect them to have another good week at regionals.”