The Sporting Discourse: Men's golf is campus' new best team

BY IAN MARTIN | APRIL 19, 2011 7:20 AM

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There's something special happening at Finkbine Golf Course.

Beyond Kinnick and Carver, just past University Heights and just before West High, sits the home course of the No. 14th Iowa men's golf team.

Unless you're head coach Mark Hankins or one of the team members, you've probably never seen them play. With only one home tournament this spring, it's not as if there are many opportunities.

But as Hawkeyes, take note. This is a team to be proud of, because of its success, especially in this environment.

The fact is, Iowa men's golf is the best team on this campus, in large part because of the best player in her or his respective sport.

Although the team's schedule hasn't been incredibly difficult, the Hawkeye golfers have managed to take five out of 10 tournaments this season. That's a .500 record in a sport in which fields can involve double-digit numbers of teams.

Senior Vince India has been the leader, winning his third tournament of the year Sunday at the Hawkeye-TaylorMade Invitational. The senior is ranked No. 7 in the country.

India is managing an average of 4.55 shots on par 5s this season (second best in the nation), and he is shooting even par on par 3s. Those are professional numbers.

This level of play, as a team and for an individual, hasn't happened for other Iowa teams this year.

Wrestling would be the only other team even in consideration for possible best team on campus.

Reputation-wise, that's correct. Even more than football, and even more than most sports programs nationally, Iowa wrestling is a powerhouse.

But at this exact moment in time, wrestling is coming off a relatively off year — also known as not winning a national championship — so the time for golf to be the best is here.

Before golf coach Mark Hankins was hired in 2007, the Hawkeyes hadn't won a tournament since 2004. Now in his fourth year, the team has won seven tournaments during his reign, and it has two-straight NCAA regional tournament berths — with a third one seemingly inevitable.

What Hankins has been able to with the Hawkeyes is impressive. A team with no indoor driving range, a "cold-weather school," has become one of the top teams in college golf. Iowa is just one of two schools north of the Mason-Dixon line in the top 25 — along with all-sport juggernaut Oregon at No. 22.

This team is special. Not just for this year, but probably for a few years to come. Hankins has had continued success at both of his previous head coaching jobs — Texas-Arlington and Michigan State — including two Big Ten championships in seven years with the Spartans.

So while every fall in Kinnick is special, and every pin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena has a unique cheer, it's the sweet strokes of the Iowa golf team that's the prize of the Athletics Department right now — and maybe for years to come.

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