DI Coach of the Year: Mark Hankins
Mark Hankins had numerous success as a college golf coach at his previous two schools — the University of Texas-Arlington, where he won eight tournaments in his two-year stint before he went to Michigan State. After leading the Spartans to Big Ten titles in 2005 and 2007, Hankins accepted the Iowa head-coach position when the Hawkeyes were coming off a last-place finish in the Big Ten.
In his fourth season at Iowa, Hankins has accumulated seven tournaments victories with five of them coming during the 2010-11 season. With the national success of the Iowa golf program, Hankins has been selected as this year's Daily Iowan Coach of the Year.
"I kind of sold the University of Iowa on that I'd done this at two other universities," Hankins said. "I'm very happy we could actually get this to come about, maybe ahead of schedule a little bit. I'm extremely proud of our players for continuing to learn.
"This year to go out and win that many golf tournaments … to win one or two is a great year — to win five is really just a great accomplishment."
Before the season began, the Hawkeyes were expected to field a solid team in the Big Ten — all five starters were returning as upperclassmen after missing out on the 2010 NCAA championship by a single stroke.
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With a team full of high expectations, it came out flat in Iowa's first tournament of the season — the Golden Gopher Invitational in Minneapolis.
The Hawkeyes finished in sixth place, and after the tournament, Hankins sat the team down for half an hour.
"One of the things that I like to do is that if something is bothering me, you need to take care of it immediately," Hankins said. "We sat around in the clubhouse for 30 minutes and discussed what we weren't focused on. Guys thinking we're just going to roll in there and be a good team without putting in the hard work."
The team certainly rebounded from that. The next tournament — Golfweek Conference Challenge — began the first of four-consecutive wins for the Hawkeyes, the most of any team in the country during the fall season.
Golfweek writer Lance Ringler lauded Hankins' coaching job.
"Mark Hankins has proven himself to be one of the top coaches in the game," Ringler told the DI. "I think it's absolutely a remarkable job with what he's been able to accomplish in just a short time at Iowa. Mark [Hankins] is very well respected by his peers, and the coaches know that Iowa as a program is one that people need to contend with."
Assistant coach Tyler Stith, who has been with Hankins for the past four seasons, said this season's success is a product of a long process that began when Hankins was hired.
"Obviously, we've had a lot of success this year. It has been kind of a transformative process going from 155 [in the country] to as high as No. 9 [this year]," Stith said. "For our upperclassmen on the team, it's not something that happened overnight, it's been three to four years of work for these guys, and that can be attributed to the process that these guys have committed to and the hard work they've put in."
With a third-place finish in the 2011 Big Ten championship combined with a second-place finish the year before, Iowa has put together its best two-year stretch in history.
"[Iowa] is really one of those teams you want to see get to nationals," Ringler said. "[The Hawkeyes] did it the right way — they worked hard, they did it with local kids. If people look back at this Iowa program four years ago, I don't think anyone in the world would've predicted a top-20 team and the Big Ten Player of the Year [in Vince India]."
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