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 JACK ROSSI
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa men’s golf team hits the links for its second week of fall competition at the Golfweek Conference Challenge, looking to bounce back from a disappointing season opener.
The Hawkeyes finished 14th at the loaded Gopher Invitational, but a bright spot of the two-day tournament was sophomore Ryoto Furuya, who finished tied for 28th with a personal-best 54-hole total 69 (-2).
“We’ve been waiting for this for some time,” UI head coach Tyler Stith said. “He is a talented player and showed glimpses during his freshman season, but lacked the consistency. This was a good first tournament for him and will give him a lot of confidence.”
Furuya’s final round was highlighted with five birdies as he finished only four strokes behind a top-20 finish.
A first for the Golfweek Conference Challenge is a venue change for 2017. The previous course, Spirit Hollow Golf Course in Burlington, Iowa, is taking a break this year meaning the Cedar Rapids Country Club will play host to the tournament for the first time in the nine-year history of the tournament and provides distinct challenges.
“This is a very old golf course designed in 1904 by Donald Ross,” Stith said. “It has a tree line with small, challenging greens that pitch front to back, so players will have to hit the ball straight and then keep the ball below the hole because the greens can be tricky.”
“It’s a little different than Spirit Hollow,” said junior Matthew Walker. “It’s a bit different off the tee and an all-around different course. I was lucky enough to play the in the Iowa Amateur this past summer so I have three competitive rounds on it.”
At last year’s Golfweek Conference Challenge, Walker tied for eighth overall with a 54-hole score of 214, including a career-best round of 66. He returns to the same tournament in 2017 as the only returning All-Big Ten honoree and All-Region member from a year ago.
“My goal is to get him a win this year,” Stith said. “I know this is a golf course that he likes and will play well at next week.”
Walker is one of three Hawkeyes named to the Men’s Golf Big Ten Preseason honors list.
Walker joins sophomores Alex Schaake, and Jack Simpson, who headline the underclassmen on Iowa’s squad this season.
“We have as much depth now that we have ever had,” Stith said. “One through 10, we have guys that can play and they are pushing each other. It is tough to make our team right now. It’s exciting to look ahead, but we have the talent to compete and be good right now.”
The Golfweek Conference Challenge tees off Sunday. The three-day tournament runs until Tuesday with admission free to the public. Live Results can be found on golfstat.com.