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Men’s golf begins postseason play today

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

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Iowa sophomore golfer Brad George is eager to make his return.

After sitting out the Hawkeyes’ last two meets, George will fill the fifth spot on the roster this weekend when the No. 41 Iowa men’s golf team takes to Minnesota’s Windsong Farms Golf Course for the Big Ten championships, looking to finish first and receive an automatic bid to NCAA regional.

And though he may not possess postseason experience, as do juniors Brad Hopfinger and Vince India and sophomores Barrett Kelpin and Chris Brant, he’s carrying a veteran mindset into the four-round event.

“I’m just taking it the same as I would any other one,” George said. “Just focus, and take it one shot at time. It’s nothing different; you just have to go out and do what you’ve been doing the entire year.”

In the 72-hole tournament, No. 18 Illinois is the favorite to capture the Big Ten title with the Hawkeyes positioned one spot below. No. 48 Michigan and No. 52 Northwestern are tabbed to finish third and fourth.

NCAA regional selections will take place after the conclusion of the conference championships.
Tournament action will begin at 8 a.m. today with the first 36 holes. Third-round play will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday. The final round is at 8 a.m. May 2.

Last year, Iowa captured the program’s highest finish in eight years, placing sixth at the meet — a significant increase from 2008 when the Hawkeyes ended in 10th.

As a result, Iowa head coach Mark Hankins said he is confident his team has built a new name for itself after both its showing in 2009 and its successful spring season.

The third-year coach said his nine-man roster enters the Minnesota event in an unfamiliar role, though, after entering last season as an enigmatic “up-and-coming team.”

“Last year, we were kind of going in there without a lot of expectations and knew we could kind of compete,” Hankins said. “But this year, we have established ourselves as one of the better teams in the Big Ten. I think we go in with a little bit more expectations, which we will try and deal with.”

Eight individuals ranked in the top 100, including Hopfinger at No. 66, are also hoping to deal with increased expectations this weekend.

However, Hopfinger and the Hawkeyes are coming off a rough showing in their final regular-season meet, the Boilermaker Invitational, last weekend. Iowa took seventh place — its lowest finish of the season.

But that poor performance isn’t bothering Hopfinger, who said he isn’t worried about the team’s ability to bounce back from the trip to West Lafayette, Ind.

“We’ll be fine,” he said. “It’s just another week. Golf has ups and downs. We just kind of had a down [last weekend], but this weekend should be an up for us.”

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