Men’s golf team finally competes at home

BY BEN WOLFSON | APRIL 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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With all the success the Iowa men’s golf team has achieved this season, one unique fact about the Hawkeyes remains: Iowa has surged to a No. 14 ranking without playing at home.

The closest to home the squad has competed was in September in Burlington at the Golfweek Conference Challenge. The Hawkeyes won by 15 strokes, and senior Vince India and junior Chris Brant shared co-medalist honors after both carded a 206 (10 under).

That will change Saturday, when the squad will compete in the 18th-annual Hawkeye Taylormade Invitational at Finkbine, the location the team normally practices at. Thirty-six holes are scheduled for Saturday, and the invitational will conclude with 18 on April 17.

“I think Finkbine is a course where we have a distinct advantage because the greens are pretty treacherous,” junior Jared Walahoski said. “I don’t think we’ll put too much pressure on ourselves … We’re all comfortable here, and with the new tees, there’s even more of an advantage.”

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Walahoski, along with senior James Reiss, will compete individually in their first tournament of the year. Junior Jed Dirksen, will also compete individually. The starting lineup will consist of seniors India and Brad Hopfinger and juniors Brant, Barrett Kelpin, and Brad George.

The Hawkeyes will be the top-ranked team in the 11-team field, which includes Eastern Michigan, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Miami (Ohio), Missouri, Nebraska, North Texas, UNC-Charlotte, and Wichita State.

After winning the tournament last year by 12 strokes, the expectations this weekend remain high for Iowa.

“Just because it’s Finkbine and we’re so comfortable on this golf course, we kind of expect to win,” India said. “The goal is always a top-three finish, but I think it’d be disappointing to come away without a victory this weekend.”

Dirksen agreed, saying playing at Finkbine creates a “calming influence” for the squad.

Despite being at home, head coach Mark Hankins will treat the tournament as an away meet in the way his team prepares for competition.

The golfers will have a team dinner tonight, just as they do on the road, and they plan on eating breakfast together on Saturday and Sunday before they tee off.

“Whenever you play at home, there are advantages to it as long as you respect the golf course,” Hankins said. “There are distractions, such as being in your hometown in front of people who normally don’t see you play. [The Hawkeyes] needs to understand that this is important to them, and keep their priorities in the right place, and basically focus on doing the best they can on each hole with using the knowledge they have from playing out here.”

One thing the Black and Gold will have to prepare for is the potential for inclement weather on Saturday and April 17. According to the National Weather Service, there is a 30 percent chance of rain on Saturday and a 40 percent chance April 17.

Still, that doesn’t phase the Hawkeyes, because the competition has to deal with the same weather.
Dirksen said, “These guys won four tournaments in the fall, and I think every tournament we go to we expect to win or be in contention, and this week is no different.”

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