Iowa Looks to Defend Hawkeye Invitational Title

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa men’s golf team is set to host the 27th Hawkeye Invitational Saturday and Sunday at Finkbine Golf Course. The Hawkeyes will welcome some of the Midwest’s top teams to the 54-hole tournament in Iowa City, Iowa.

Iowa will have home-course advantage for the first time this season. Finkbine has served as the home of Hawkeye golf since 1953, and this veteran Hawkeye squad knows it like the top of their putters.

“We’ve been playing at Finkbine since it opened [this spring] and we try to get out there every day to play as much as we can,” says fifth-year senior Alex Schaake. “That’s more of a main priority than even going out and practicing. We want to get as comfortable with the course as we can before we play because that’s a huge advantage that we can use against the other teams.”

Schaake says he enjoys playing at Finkbine, and in particular is a fan the signature 13th hole. The par-3 offers a double green with two potential hole locations on the far side of the course’s lone water feature.

“The whole back nine is my favorite,” says Schaake. “Hole 13, the island green par-three, is definitely one of my favorite holes.”

Head Coach Tyler Stith says the course is ready for its first collegiate action since 2019.

“I have never seen the golf course in the shape that it is in right now. It’s in great condition.”

Anticipating milder temperatures, Stith has attempted to replicate the climate that the team will face this weekend.

“The ball does travel shorter when you have to wear more clothes,” says Coach Stith. “It probably will be a little windy, so all those things make this a different challenge. We’re going to practice in the morning this week to get used to the conditions and figure out exactly how far our balls are carrying and how balls are reacting into the greens. I think we’ll be ready to go.”

Iowa took home the Hawkeye Invitational team championship in record-breaking fashion in 2019, shattering the school 54-hole record by 24 strokes with an 809 (-43) showing. Schaake and Matthew Walker claimed co-medalist honors with program-record 54-hole scores of 199 (-14) to lead the Hawkeyes to the historic finish.

“Two years ago, we broke every record in the history of the tournament, the history of our program, and beat Illinois,” says Stith. “We have to treat this year like a completely different year, because it’s different in so many ways, even the golf course is completely different. The weather is going to be different. My expectation for the guys is I want us to continue to build off the momentum that we’ve had in these first five events.”

Standout junior Gonzalo Leal Montero agrees that it is important not to let last season’s performance lull the team into complacency.

“That’s going to be really hard to do again,” says Montero, “But if we follow our game plan, if we follow the guidelines that our coaches are giving us every day at practice, and our strategy in the tournament we should be fine. We’re confident and focused on what we need to do.”

Schaake says the team can take lessons from the dominant 2019 outing.

“We need to get in that same mindset that we were in two years ago,” Schaake said. “We were having fun, not really caring about anything else, and it was great weather. We were all really comfortable.”

Part of getting in that groove will be relying on their experience with the course.

“I think what you have to do to win golf tournaments is, when the greens get fast, you have to keep it below the hole,” says Schaake. “That’s something that we practice out there every day. Even when the greens are slow, we aren’t trying to go at pins, we’re still trying to practice how we would play in a golf tournament. I think whoever putts the best is going to win. “

Schaake’s final season with the Hawkeyes is off to an outstanding start. Schaake sits at No. 15 in the PGA TOUR University standings, making him the third-highest rated Big Ten golfer in the metric. He finished second at the Spartan Collegiate on March 9, behind teammate Mac McClear, then reached in the top five again at the highly competitive Calusa Cup on April 6.

With his career day at the Hawkeye Invitational last season, it might seem as though momentum is on the Omaha, Nebraska, native’s side. Schaake, however, says his mindset is on the here and now.

“It’s not that I like I’m trying to carry the momentum,” says Schaake. “I keep trying to do what I’ve been doing before every other event: practicing hard, playing hard, and obviously we have a big advantage to this week being on our home course.”

The Hawkeyes enter Saturday’s first two rounds of competition as the highest ranked team in the field. Iowa has won 15 team titles and produced 14 team champions in the event’s history, and Stith believes the team can put itself in position to come out on top again.

“I’ve seen another level of focus this week at practice,” Stith said. “I want to make sure that we do everything that we can as a team to prepare, and then we put ourselves in a situation to go out and be successful this weekend.”

Fans are welcome at the event, which tees off at 8:30 a.m. both days.

“We welcome everybody to come out and watch and hopefully see some good golf and some maybe some future PGA TOUR stars out here this weekend,” said Stith.