Golfer enjoys being only freshman on team

BY BEN WOLFSON | MARCH 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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While the Iowa men’s golf team’s starting lineup is full of upperclassmen, when one looks at the roster, the number of freshmen stands out.

Ian Vandersee — who is redshirting this year — has gone through an adjustment period while being the lone freshman on the 13th-ranked team in the country.

Vandersee had always been interested in attending the University of Iowa. As a standout golfer during his days at Valley High School in West Des Moines, he sent out recruiting packages of himself to various schools and finally committed to Iowa.

“Coach Hankins had come in, and I saw the drastic improvement that [the team] had, so I decided Iowa would be a good place to go to,” Vandersee said. “I never visited anywhere else; I fell in love with [Iowa].”

In high school, Vandersee led his squad to a state team title as a sophomore. He won the individual title his senior year.

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Last summer he competed in various events and posted five top-10 finishes. Now, as he practices with his teammates, he is developing his game to a level where he can compete next year.

“I think the first time we took a major interest in him was the state tournament in high school,” head coach Mark Hankins said. “We’re always interested in those top one to five players in the state, and we want to make sure if a kid really loves Iowa that we’ll give him a shot.”

Being the only freshman on the team is somewhat of a rarity and is a unique situation for Vandersee.

Junior Barrett Kelpin recalled his freshman year when there were seven members of the team who lived with each other in Hillcrest.

Vandersee rooms with the tennis team’s Michael Swank.

“[Ian] definitely has a different situation living with a tennis player,” Kelpin said. “He’s a pretty independent and put-together [guy] and we try to offer a younger player advice and bring him along as fast as we can … They are the future of our program.”

One part of the adjustment period from high- school to college golf was managing a schedule filled with practices, workouts, and school work.

“In high school, we didn’t work out at all, it was just showing up to practice,” Vandersee said with a laugh. “One thing I learned is that it’s not as big of a step as I thought it would be … I was really intimidated playing with all these guys [in the beginning], because I knew the history that they’ve had and how good they all are.”

The older players often will come to Hillcrest and eat with Vandersee, as well as give him rides to practice, and they are always open to giving him advice.

Vandersee credits a skilled group of upperclassmen for helping him develop his game. He has also worked with Hankins to make changes in his swing.

“Everyone is willing to share tips,” Vandersee said. “Being around these guys is a huge step, the goal is to always play with people that are better than you, and I’ve been able to do that here … Playing on the 13th-ranked team in the country is a giant help.”

While Vandersee is redshirting this year, it’s no stretch to say that he could compete for a spot in the lineup next fall.

“We want to make sure [recruits] are the right fit for our team,” Hankins said. “Ian works as hard as anyone, and he’s shown that to these guys, he’s really just preparing for the summer and will come back next year with a better understanding of what will be necessary to start for this golf team.”

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