Men's golf finishes third at Big Ten Championships

BY BEN WOLFSON | MAY 02, 2011 7:20 AM

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After 72 holes of golf over three days, the Iowa men's golf team couldn't overcome Illinois for the second year in a row, and the Hawkeyes finished the Big Ten championships in third place.

The Fighting Illini won the league championship after firing 1,160 (8-over) and Northwestern finished in second with 1,179.

The Hawkeyes finished two strokes behind the Wildcats (1,181) and had three players β€” Vince India, Brad Hopfinger, and Chris Brant β€” finish in the top 20.

"[The Illini] played better than us, and they deserved to win the championship," head coach Mark Hankins said. "We fought a hard match for second today and almost pulled it out in the end. We shot 1 under as a team today, and overall, I'm pleased with our performance."

Brant, who led the field for two rounds, finished second overall to Illinois' Luke Guthrie. The junior ended up carding a 288 over four rounds to finish at even par, and Guthrie won by a single stroke.

"I think the key to my performance was putting myself in the right mindset," Brant said. "When I make the game simpler and have as much fun as I can, everything falls into place and becomes effortless."

With a second-place finish in the 2010 Big Ten championships and a third-place finish on Sunday, this marks the best back-to-back finishes at the conference championships in school history.

Brant was named to the all-tournament team β€” he and Guthrie were the only players in a 54-man field that shot even par or better for the tournament. Brant's runner-up finish is the best by an Iowa golfer at the Big Ten championships since Brad Klapprott won the tournament in 1992.

"I think we played great competition, and that's just going to help us be mentally tough and physically ready to play [at NCAA regionals]," Brant said. "Once we make it to the national championship, we'll be ready to play there."

India and Hopfinger finished tied for 13th and 17th place, respectively. India carded 295 over four rounds to finish 7 over, and Hopfinger was 8 over.

Junior Barrett Kelpin shot a 302 in the tournament to finish tied for 28th, and Brad George carded 314 in tying for 49th.

"We struggled a little bit this week, but all in all, it was a decent finish," India said. "The golf course played tough all week, and we did a decent job of staying in the present."

Despite finishing behind rival Illinois for the second-consecutive year, the team saw a lot of positives from the experience as it was paired with the Fighting Illini for all four rounds of play.

"I think whenever you go head-to-head with a top team such as Illinois for four-straight rounds, that will make each one of our players better," Hankins said. "The overall strength of the Big Ten and competitiveness [we faced in this tournament] gives us confidence for when we face a national field."

India said, "We're going to be better [after being paired with Illinois] because of it. They're going to be our competition down the road, we saw the mistakes they made and how they pumped each other up and had a good mindset. We learned from them."

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