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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By BRANDEE BRITT
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s golf team enters the 2017-18 season with a roster full of experienced upperclassmen.
The Hawkeyes return eight letterwinners from a year ago. Last season, Iowa registered a 76.0 team average — the second-best mark in program history.
“We’ve already seen the benefits of an experienced team the first couple weeks of practice,” said UI head coach Megan Menzel. “There’s a sense of calm. We know what we are doing and we know how to do it. We are traveling with people who have experienced all of it before, and I think it’s going to be beneficial to us.”
Three of Iowa’s returners — Jessica Ip, Morgan Kukla, and Sophie Liu — were named Big Ten Preseason Honorees on Aug. 30. Both Ip and Liu competed in all 10 of Iowa’s tournaments last season, while Kukla competed in seven.
Ip is on pace to become one of the most decorated student-athletes in Iowa women’s golf history. The Richmond Hill, Ontario, native recorded the lowest individual season average in program history in 2015 (72.5). Her 74.2 stroke average in the spring of 2017 marked the sixth-lowest average in school history. Ip also registered a top-15 finish at the Big Ten Championships in 2017 (12th; 221, +5).
“Jessica has been a great player because she has consistently done what we have asked her to do,” said Menzel. “She has gotten a little bit better each and every year and that’s not always the case in college golf. You don’t always see a steady, upward trend.
“She has improved her confidence and her game has gotten better and better. She loves competition, so our tough schedule fits her well. She thrives on big environments and we are excited to see all she can accomplish in her final season.”
Iowa kicks off a challenging 2017-18 slate at the Branch Law Firm Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Monday and Tuesday. Ten of the 17 teams in the field are ranked within the top-50 of the Golfstat Relative Rankings. They include: No. 1 Stanford, No. 8 Northwestern, No. 16 Arizona, No. 18 Texas, No. 19 Oklahoma, No. 21 Colorado, No. 34 San Diego State, No. 39 Pepperdine, No. 46 Iowa State, and No. 49 UNLV.
“We are excited about the opportunities in front of us,” Menzel said. “We realize that we are going to have to set some realistic goals and expectations at each event. We will take it one meet at a time and see how each course sets up for us.
“We belong in talented fields and it’s time for us to go out and show that we can compete with the best teams week-in and week-out. We haven’t necessarily had that opportunity in the past, but now we have it and we want to take advantage of it.”
The Hawkeyes tee off at the Branch Law Firm Invitational at 8:30 a.m. (CT) today. The tournament concludes Tuesday with an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start.