Short turnaround between competitions good for men's golf

BY BEN WOLFSON | APRIL 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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After finishing fourth on Sunday at the Robert Kepler Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, the Iowa men's golf team left on Wednesday to travel to West Lafayette, Ind., the site of the 2011 Big Ten championships.

Competition will take place today through May 1 at Kampen Golf Course, which most recently hosted the 2008 NCAA championship.

Iowa golfers called the course similar to Ohio State's Scarlet Course, on which they competed last weekend. The experience at such a course — which places a premium on driving the ball a long way — helped the Hawkeyes prepare for Big Tens.

With such a quick turnaround between competitions, the Hawkeyes are full of confidence to begin postseason play.

"We fell short at Ohio State [last weekend] and fell short at the Big Ten championships last year, so we know what that feels like," junior Chris Brant said. "We want to leave no stone unturned in our preparation, and having competition just a couple of days ago definitely helps."

With nine Big Ten teams ranked in Golfstat's top 100, the tournament will be extremely competitive. After a second-place finish in 2010, the Hawkeyes want one thing: the Big Ten championship.

"There's raised expectations [this weekend] for a lot of reasons," head coach Mark Hankins said. "I think [the tournament] is wide open. We're not the favorites as most people would assume, but I think we have as much respect from everybody as any team in the field."

One difference between the Big Ten championships and all the other tournaments Iowa has competed in this year is the length of play.

There are 72 holes, more than any other tournament in which Iowa has played this year. Last year, the Hawks were 16 strokes back and in third place heading into the final round but clawed within three strokes of eventual tournament winner Illinois.

The five starters — Vince India, Brad Hopfinger, Brant, Barrett Kelpin, and Brad George, all upperclassmen — believe their team grew from that experience, and they have become a much deeper starting five this season.

"We've all grown a lot as players, physically and mentally," Kelpin said. "We have a seasoned lineup, we all know each other's tendencies … we're a different team from when we started playing together our freshman and sophomore years, and I feel that will bode well for us."

The consistency shown by the Hawkeyes this year should factor heavily into the weekend. With so many holes of golf, consistent results will help separate Iowa from the rest of the Big Ten.

"[The Big Ten championships] are four rounds — it's a grind," Hopfinger said. "Playing 72, the better teams usually come out on top and the better chance the better team wins … we look at that as a positive aspect. We have been consistent the whole year, and consistency pays off in the end, so I think that will work in our favor."

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