Iowa golf team enjoys being an underdog

BY BEN WOLFSON | APRIL 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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With two tournaments left before the Iowa men’s golf team reaches postseason play, the squad is noticeably different from the group last year that missed the cut for the NCAA championship by one stroke.

While the Hawkeyes return all five starters, the players have changed the way they approach each tournament.

“Regionals was a disappointment because it was a failure for our team,” head coach Mark Hankins said. “We didn’t play up to our potential [last spring].”

The aspects that stand out for the squad are the five starters’ motivation and ability to play consistent golf week in and week out.

“[Last spring], we all wanted to go to [NCAA championships] very badly,” junior Chris Brant said. “We all knew what it took, and when we fell one shot short, it really motivated us this year to work hard everyday.”

“I think we can draw back on those [fall 2010 wins] and realize that we won by staying in a process and doing the little things every day.”

Iowa won four-straight tournaments in the fall, and while the spring season started out with results that weren’t as good as expected, the team has rebounded since its spring-break tournament in Atlanta.

In the Callaway Collegiate Match-Play on March 20-22, Iowa ended with a 3-1 record and knocked off two highly ranked teams in Alabama and Georgia.

The Hawkeyes are ranked 14th nationally by Golfstat.com.

“We definitely think [that we belong], and our results prove it,” Brant said. “I don’t think a lot of other people think we should be here; we’re still viewed as the underdog. It’s a chip on our shoulder and just to realize [others] try to discredit us … we just do our thing and prove ourselves, we’re going to go back and finish what we started last year.”

Seniors Vince India and Brad Hopfinger lead the five upperclassmen starters, and they view this next month as an important stretch to prepare for postseason play.

“We have a lot more experience [this year], and we’re a little bit deeper,” India said. “This year I think it’s an unwritten goal or duty for me and Brad [Hopfinger] to really buckle down and step up to lead this team to NCAAs. I think if we do make it, we’ll probably have the strongest showing this team could ever have.”

The success of the past fall has instilled a confident attitude that is displayed by every member of a squad that has grown greatly in a year’s time.

“I think Chris [Brant] and I have matured a lot the past couple of years with our attitudes and our games,” India said. “We got out and played some good tournaments this year, and that built up the nerves a little bit.”

The team is preparing for its upcoming home tournament — the Hawkeye TaylorMade/Adidas Invitational, which begins on April 16 at Finkbine.

After last season’s heartbreaking finish, the Hawkeyes view themselves as contenders for the national championship.

“People underestimate our golf program because we don’t have the top recruits coming out every year,” India said. “We know how to play, we know how to get the ball in the hole, and I almost guarantee our attitudes and our mental games are better than anyone else’s out there.

“That’s why we catch a lot of [teams] by surprise … We’re grinders out there.”

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