Men’s golf posts fifth-place finish

BY JESSIE SMITH | MARCH 25, 2010 7:30 AM

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The No. 42-ranked Iowa men’s golf team traveled to the Callaway Match-Play Tournament on March 21-23 with hopes of upsetting some of the nation’s top programs.

The Hawkeyes accomplished that feat and finished the tournament 3-1 to earn a fifth place finish.

Head coach Mark Hankins’ squad entered the event as the No. 13-seed in a 16-team pool. The low seed set the Hawkeyes up with a first-round match against fourth-seeded Arizona State.

Iowa started the match down, 0-2, after sophomores Brad George and Chris Brant dropped their matches, 3-and-1 and 6-and-5.

Juniors Brad Hopfinger and Vince India and sophomore Barrett Kelpin came through and posted wins for the Hawkeyes to give the team a 3-2 victory over the Sun Devils. The trio combined for 10 of the team’s 11 overall victories.

Hankins said he was not surprised by his team’s success.

“Our top three guys have consistently performed this early spring,” Hankins said. “Their skill and confidence grows each tournament. Brad, Vince, and Barrett all played tough head-to-head golf and were rewarded with wins.”

The Hawkeyes advanced to the quarterfinals to take on 12th-seeded Colorado State, a match that stretched across two days because darkness. Colorado State secured the 3-2 win after India dropped his match, 2-and-1.

Hopfinger and Kelpin went on to win their matches and remain undefeated following the second round.

Quickly shaking off the loss that same day, the Hawkeyes went on to knock off No. 2-ranked and top-seeded Stanford, 3.5-1.5.

“We just tried to stay focused,” Kelpin, said. “It wasn’t easy; [Stanford] was a really good team, and we all knew going in we would have to put our best foot forward in order to get the win.”

Hopfinger and India each won their matches against top-100 opponents, 6-and-5 and 3-and-2.

Kelpin also won his match, 3-and-1, and Brant halved his match to earn Iowa a half point.

The third-round win boosted the Hawkeyes into contention for fifth place against the No. 7 team in the nation and sixth-seeded UNLV. After George dropped his first match, 2-and-1, Brant, Kelpin and India each answered with victories to secure the team’s fifth-place finish.

Kelpin’s 2-up victory over UNLV’s Brett Kanda made him the only Hawkeye to go 4-0 on the tournament.

“I think [my success] came mostly because of my putting,” Kelpin said. “I putted well all week, and that’s such a big deciding factor in match play. If you putt well, you’re going to be pretty tough to beat.”

India attributed the team’s success to quality practice rounds in the week leading up to the event.

“We were lucky to play on some pretty good golf courses the week before the tournament,” India said. “Those courses were all really similar, so playing those got us in the right state of mind and helped us adjust to playing desert golf.”

On Friday, the Hawkeyes will travel to the Spring Break Invitational in Boca Raton, Fla.

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