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Men golfers bounce back

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | APRIL 21, 2009 7:30 AM

This spring, the Iowa men’s golf team has shown flashes of the form that helped propel it to an Oct. 26 victory at the 12-team Landfall Tradition. But meet after meet, Iowa couldn’t seem to put it all together.

Then the Hawkeyes captured third place at the 18-team Boilermaker Invitational on Sunday in West Lafayette, Ind.

This performance came after three marginal finishes — 14th at the EZ-GO Schenkel Invitational on March 22 and two eighth-place finishes at the Spring Break and Kepler Invitationals on March 29 and April 12.

And now, the Big Ten championships looms, set for May 1-3 in State College, Pa.

It looks as if the Hawkeyes are getting it going at just the right time.

Iowa shot a 54-hole team score of 864 (even) to finish nine strokes off the pace set by Big Ten foe Illinois. Penn State finished in second at 856. Wisconsin (866) and Indiana (874) finished fourth and fifth to round out an all-Big Ten top five.

The Hawkeyes’ three most consistent golfers all season — sophomores Vince India and Brad Hopfinger and senior Cole Peevler — were all near the top of their games.

India led Iowa, carding a 54-hole score of 211 (5 under) to finish in fourth. India’s second round 68 (4 under) — the team low for the weekend — was highlighted by a hole-in-one on the par-3 13th. It was the second ace he has converted at any level.

“I was just kind of trying to hit it in the middle of the green,” India said. “But I happened to pull draw it a little bit, so it ended up one-hopping in the hole. I got away with an average golf shot.”

Hopfinger gave the Hawkeyes a solid No. 2 at the event — the Kansas transfer shot 215 to finish in a tie for seventh. Peevler was also strong, finishing in a tie for 16th while posting a 54-hole score of 218.

“Team-wise, I was pretty satisfied,” he said. “I feel like we all played together as a group.

Individually, I was real pleased with the way I just hung in there. I kind of struggled with my short game, but overall, I was pretty pleased.”

Freshmen Chris Brant and Brad George rounded out the Hawkeyes’ five-man lineup, with Brant shooting 220 and George carding 228. It was Brant’s first competition in two meets — his last action came at the Spring Break Invitational. But it wasn’t difficult for Edwardsville, Ill., native, to get back into right frame of mind.

“We had qualifying last week, and that really puts you in a competitive mindset,” he said. “You’re trying to beat your teammates, and it puts you in a similar situation to actually being in the tournament. It just hones your skills and hones your focus.”

The impressive team depth displayed by Iowa over the weekend was exactly what second-year head coach Mark Hankins has been striving for all year.

“It was kind of similar to our last tournament in the fall, in which [India, Hopfinger, and Peevler] stepped up and played at a high level, and Brad [George] and Chris [Brant] really contributed,” Hankins said. “Our highest score for the week was 78 — there were a lot of good scores.”

The Hawkeyes will now shift their focus to the upcoming Big Ten championships. But unlike recent years, Iowa will try to extend its season past the conference meet to the NCAA regionals on May 14-16.

Hankins likes where his team currently stands.

“Every tournament’s different,” he said. “We’ll get there, see how that golf course looks, maybe attack that a little differently. But we definitely have come full circle and are playing with a lot more confidence right now.”


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