Men’s golf rallies for second-place finish

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

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The No. 42 Iowa men’s golf team entered the Florida Atlantic University Spring Break Invitational with a tangy taste on its tongue after last year’s eighth-place finish.

The Hawkeyes carded a 291 (plus 9) in the first round of the 2009 event, a score that left Iowa comfortably tied for sixth-place going into the second day. That nine-above-par score was the Hawkeyes’ lowest round of last year’s tournament.

But instead of building on the start, Iowa shot a second-round 297 and a third-round 296, resulting in the mediocre middle-of-the pack eighth-place finish.

However, head coach Mark Hankins’ team did just the opposite in this year’s competition.

The Hawkeyes started off slowly with a first-round score of 295 (plus 11). But then, the Hawks hit a roaring seven-spot jump in the standings.

“I think we just had a better focus and better state of mind this year,” Hankins said. “I feel like we just hung in there and let everybody else come to us. We didn’t play a great first round, but we got some help from different areas, and everyone just kind of pieced it together and came up with a good team score.”

Iowa built on its ninth-place start by carding a second-round score of 281 — the seventh-lowest 18-hole team total in school history.

Sophomore Chris Brant said the busy break schedule instilled a competitive mindset in the team, which ultimately propelled the Hawkeyes in the last two days of play.

“After coming off spring break and playing every day, I think we were just more hungry to win and hungry to finish well,” he said. “We knew we were in ninth after the first day, and we weren’t happy about that. We dug deep in ourselves and found extra motivation to finish out and play extremely well in those last two days.”

Sophomore Barrett Kelpin was particularly motivated after coming off an undefeated showing at the Callaway Collegiate Match-Play Tournament on March 21-23.

Kelpin added to the Hawkeyes’ historic weekend when he fired home a second-round 65 (minus 6) — the third lowest 18-hole score in program history.

Not only did the sophomore’s round tie him individually for second place, it also helped boost the team into fourth place going into Sunday’s final round.

Kelpin said that as the tournament progressed, the team got more comfortable with the course, which led to a boost in confidence.

“I got off to a great start in second round,” Kelpin said. “I got really comfortable with what was happening, and I was completely calm. I felt like I could do anything I wanted to on the golf course. That confidence from that good start rolled me through the rest [of the tournament].”

Unlike in last year’s event, the confidence carried over to day three, where the Hawkeyes continued their race to the top of the standings.

Last year, Iowa entered the final day of competition tied for eight and never moved up.

This year, the Hawkeyes posted an even par at 284 to earn themselves second place. Iowa carded a 54-hole total of 860 (plus 8), 18 shots shy of tournament champions Illinois and a 24-stroke improvement from last year.

Hankins said the Hawkeyes are happy with the second-place finish, but they are definitely not satisfied.

“As good as second is, its still second by a lot,” he said. “So we need to find a way individually for each one of those guys to get better so we can contend for a championship.”

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