Spring season opens up qualifying again for golf team

BY BEN WOLFSON | MARCH 02, 2011 7:20 AM

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For the 2010 fall season, the scorecards listed the same five names for the men’s golf team for all five tournaments — Vince India, Brad Hopfinger, Chris Brant, Barrett Kelpin, and Brad George.

This is the first time the same five starters have played in every tournament to begin a season since head coach Mark Hankins took over in 2007.

Now that the spring season is beginning, it gives players a chance to requalify and take a starting spot.

“This year, we had a unique scenario — we had five guys continue to win, so we’re not going to stray too far with what worked [in the fall],” Hankins said. “At the same time, you got to keep it competitive, and you’ve got to have an order.”

So far Iowa has played in two events — the Big Four Match-Play Championship in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the Big Ten Match-Play Championship in Boca Raton, Fla.

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In Arizona, the Hawkeyes finished second out of four teams — Iowa State, Northern Iowa, and Drake. They lost two out of three matches in Florida.

While participating in these two tournaments, Iowa has traveled with a sixth player, junior Jed Dirksen. Now eligible after transferring and qualifying to be the sixth traveling player, Dirksen has performed well and has gone undefeated in match play.

George, who has been listed as the fifth starter on the lineup card in the two spring tournaments, is the only other player who has gone undefeated in all his matches and is feeling confident.

“I’m [feeling really] good,” he said. “I got off to a good start, and I’m pretty sure that will carry over.”

One reason for George’s recent success is his improved putting. Over winter break, he went south and focused on putting a lot after struggling with it during the fall season.

The team will travel to Dallas on Friday for an alumni match, which the Big Ten allows schools to participate in once per year. Again, Iowa will bring six players, but Hankins called it a “relaxed atmosphere” where the team will get some repetitions and also interact with former Iowa golfers.

“[Dallas] has a laid-back atmosphere,” Brant said. “It allows us to work on our games and get that final tune-up with a little bit less pressure …

“[This spring] I think we left a lot on the table [in our first two tournaments], and this allows us to revamp what we need to work on without worrying about a team score.”

For spring break, the Hawkeyes will travel to Atlanta with six men again and work on qualifying for five slots in the Callaway Collegiate Match-Play.

With six golfers, one will be left out of competition. But Hankins says the overall experience of playing against the other squad members and watching them is beneficial to whomever starts or doesn’t play.

Hankins likes the way the hawkeyes have to qualify against each other and prove themselves to the rest of the team to show they belong as starters.

“My thing is if you’re not trying to be No. 1, then you need to find another team,” Hankins said. “We don’t want anybody trying to play No. 3 man, we want you trying to be No. 1 …
“If you’re trying to excel and be the best you can, then you’re doing your job for this team.”

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