Iowa golf travels to NCAA Regional in Indiana

BY BEN WOLFSON | MAY 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men's golf team has unfinished business to take care of when it travels to Zionsville, Ind., on May 17 to compete in the NCAA regional at Wolf Run Golf Course.

The purpose of the trip — advance to the NCAA championship — is something the Hawkeyes missed out on last season by a single stroke.

Iowa is the No. 3 seed, slotted behind Big Ten champion Illinois and Alabama.

The rest of the field will consist of Stanford, Wake Forest, Tennessee, Indiana, Florida State, Michigan, UNC-Charlotte, Memphis, Wichita State, Missouri-Kansas City, and Sacred Heart.

Golfweek's Lance Ringler offered his reactions to The Daily Iowan Monday after the regional fields were announced.

"It is golf, and nothing is ever a lock, but I'll tell you what, the regional at Indiana at Wolf Run is one of the toughest if not the toughest [regional field]," Ringler said. "It's not a lock by any stretch [that Iowa will advance], but I'm sure [Iowa head coach] Mark [Hankins] will have those kids motivated to play, and they've had a great year."

Iowa has faced most of the teams in the field, including top-seed Alabama, which the Hawkeyes beat, 4-1, on March 21 in the Callaway Collegiate Match Play.

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"The depth of the field is very good at this tournament. You look at the No. 10 team Charlotte, it finished second [at the Hawkeye-TaylorMade] behind us," Hankins said. "I like [the Indiana regional] because it's similar conditions to what we're normally playing on a day-to-day basis. We won't have to adjust to a different type of glass or climate."

Because of the success the squad has had this year, the golfers emphasized the need to stay grounded and focused and not overthink or let expectations overwhelm them.

"I think most people expect us to [advance] to NCAA championships," said senior Vince India, who is ranked 13th nationally by Golfweek. "We can't build up our expectations, though, and play a different game out there."

With the end of the Hawkeyes' lineup struggling this spring, only four starting spots are guaranteed. Seniors Vince India and Brad Hopfinger will be joined by juniors Chris Brant and Barrett Kelpin.

The competition for the No. 5 starter's spot will be between juniors Brad George and Jed Dirksen, and the final verdict will be decided by Hankins early next week.

"That's why you need five guys doing their best … team depth has always been our strength here at Iowa," Hankins said. "We've had different guys stepping up in bigger tournaments — most recently Chris Brant stepped up at Big Tens [where he finished as runner-up], and he was playing in the No. 3 position."

With Iowa players engrossed in finals this week, the golf team hasn't had any official practices, and the squad has been encouraged to study and also golf for fun.

The Indiana regional play will run from May 19-21 and consist of one round of golf per day.

Iowa's goal is to finish in the top four and guarantee itself a trip to the NCAAs, which will take place in Stillwater, Okla., May 31 through June 5. The Hawkeyes hope to amend last year's result and finish what the team has built all year to work for with a trip to NCAAs.

"We want to put the best team we can out there," Hankins said. "The guys have trust in each other that everyone is grinding the best we can to shoot the numbers we want. I think we have enough talent to go to NCAA Finals."

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