Brant leads golfers to sixth place


The Iowa men’s golf team placed sixth at the 2009 Big Ten championships on Sunday at Penn State. No. 15 Illinois captured first place with a commanding 13-stroke margin of victory, but Iowa’s 72-hole team score of 1,172 (36 over) beat out two of the field’s four ranked squads — No. 37 Michigan State and No. 42 Michigan.

Freshman Chris Brant carded a 72-hole score of 294 (10 over) to pace the Hawkeyes for the weekend. The Edwardsville, Ill., native, both started and finished the tournament strongly, shooting 71 (even) in the first and fourth rounds. Brant’s performance earned him a tie for 15th place. Sophomore Vince India finished 22nd overall after shooting a 296. Senior Cole Peevler shot 297, and sophomore Brad Hopfinger and freshman Barrett Kelpin both posted scores of 299 to tie for 35th.

“We’re obviously a little disappointed we couldn’t finish a little higher,” Iowa head coach Mark Hankins said. “With this conference, a few shots here or there can change your position by two or three places. We were right in there all day long, and we just happened to end up in sixth.”
While three of Iowa’s golfers were making their Big Ten championship début, the poise they demonstrated would have led one to believe otherwise. Entering the meet, the team was focused on approaching the tournament just as any other.

“I just tried to play it like it was another normal tournament,” Kelpin said. “We’ve played a lot of tournaments this year and seen all the teams that were there, so we just tried to not make it more than it was.”

On the other hand, Peevler was playing in his third and final championship. But unlike his previous appearances, he was surrounded by a deeper team. Peevler used that to his advantage, carding rounds of 73, 75, 72, and 77.

“It made a huge difference,” he said. “Less pressure on me and just having your teammates there gives you more leeway. I know I can trust my teammates because I know they’re out there trying as hard as they can, and I know they’re going to perform up to their standards.”

With the Hawkeyes’ postseason destiny yet to be determined, it may have been his last collegiate tournament. The team will find out Tuesday at 5 p.m., if it’s selected to compete in the NCAA regionals.

At-large bids are given to 65 teams while 16 automatic bids are reserved for conference champions. Being ranked 65th or better will usually earn a spot for a team hoping to be an at-large participant.
Iowa entered last weekend ranked 63rd.

Hankins admits his squad is “definitely on the bubble.”

“From my perspective, we did what we could this weekend and obviously, we had a very solid year,” he said. “We’ve had some good tournaments, we’ve had some average tournaments, and we’ve had one or two bad ones, but overall, I think having a win in the fall was important for us. We’ll see.”

Perhaps most anxious for the decision will be Peevler. Having previously experienced lows in the program’s history, to being a part of a “renaissance” of Iowa golf, the moment when Peevler finds out if the Hawkeyes will be heading to regionals or not will be an emotional one.

“It would mean everything to me,” he said. “I’ve been looking forward to this since I got here in August [2005] as a freshman. The ups-and-downs I’ve been through, it’s almost kind of been like somewhat of a circus, and then to finally have someone like Coach Hankins to guide me in the right direction and finally get my head on straight and to have the team that we have now, I think we can go far.”

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