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Men’s golf team home at last

BY JESSIE SMITH | APRIL 16, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Iowa men’s golf team is home at last.

For the first time since 2006, the Hawkeyes will play at Finkbine Golf Course in the Hawkeye Taylormade/Adidas Invitational this weekend.

The first 36-holes of play will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday with the final round starting at 8:30 a.m. on April 18.

No. 38 Iowa enters as the favorite in the 10-team pool, which features Drake, a squad the Hawkeyes swept six matches to none in the Big-Four meet on Feb. 6.

Iowa also aims to build on its rich tournament history and earn its 12th tournament crown at Finkbine since the event originated in 1970.

Junior Vince India said the team’s course familiarity should give the Hawkeyes an advantage in this weekend’s event.

“We know this course a lot better than the other teams,” India said. “Especially the greens, so I think that’s where the other teams are going to struggle a little bit, like knowing what [parts of the green] breaks where and where the stops are on the greens, so that’s key.”

A top finish this weekend will help the Hawkeyes maintain their national ranking for postseason play, where only the top-65 teams advance.

With just two regular-season tournaments remaining in the spring season, head coach Mark Hankins is working on keeping his nine-man roster in the present state of mind instead of looking ahead to the Big Ten Tournament in two weeks.

“We’re trying to treat every tournament the same,” Hankins said. “ And they are because when you look at rankings, it’s not someone’s opinion in golf, it’s actually who you beat and how much you beat them by that counts.”

All nine of the Hawkeyes on the roster will compete in this weekend’s home event, but only four of the players’ results will count toward the team’s score.

Juniors Brad Hopfinger and Vince India and sophomores Barrett Kelpin and Chris Brant are set to start. The fifth-spot in the lineup remains up for grabs among sophomores Brad George and James Reiss and freshman Ryan Marks.

The remaining four Hawkeyes, which includes sophomore Dusty Koth and freshman Jared Walahoski, will compete as individuals in the tournament. Hankins said he hopes the weekend event gives his players competing as individuals a chance to gain valuable tournament-like experience.

“I think at times it can be a little more comforting [playing as an individual],” Hankins said. “ But there are some guys who haven’t played as many of the events, so I think overall, we’re just trying to make sure everyone’s relaxing and trying to build confidence through repetition.”

Kelpin said he felt comfortable with the team’s ability from the tee box, but he stressed the importance of Iowa’s play from short distance.

“You can hit it a lot of places around Finkbine and be OK,” he said. “But if you putt and chip well, your scores are going to be pretty good. You can either make or break a round on the greens out here, so I would say definitely short game and putting will be big for us.”

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