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Men’s golf faces uncertainty

BY BEN SCHUFF | SEPTEMBER 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men’s golf team spent much of last year positioning itself as one of the top programs in the country.

But because of the graduation of last year’s leaders, Vince India and Brad Hopfinger, a sense of uncertainty surrounds this year’s squad.

“When you lose two guys such as Brad and Vince, and you bring new guys in, you’re never quite sure [what will happen],” senior Barrett Kelpin said. “We have a different identity as a team this year. I think [that identity] is still kind of uncertain.

“It’s kind of uncertain what Iowa golf will be this year.”

What is certain is that Kelpin, along with fellow senior Chris Brant, are now the leaders of head coach Mark Hankins’ Hawkeyes. Both have been starters throughout their careers, and they will attempt to lead Iowa out of the shadows of India and Hopfinger.

“There is definitely a different feel with a lot of younger guys now,” Brant said. “Barrett and I — as the seniors now — are kind of taking a different role. Before, we were kind of the underclassman as juniors and the other guys were seniors. So now we definitely have to be leaders, even more than we were last year.”

Although they might not have been viewed as team leaders before, both Brant and Kelpin have played like them in the past.

Brant came on strong toward the end of the spring season last year, placing second at the Big Ten championships. He was ranked 25th nationally by Golfstat.com in June, the highest ranking of any Iowa golfer. Brant also earned second team all-Big Ten honors and was an honorable mention All-American by PING.

Kelpin is coming off a summer in which he won the Northern Amateur in late July. Before struggling with consistency last year, Kelpin led the team with a low-stroke average of 72 during the 2010 spring season.

“They’re definitely going to be the leaders as far as knowing what to do, when to be there, what’s going on, [and] what to expect,” Hankins said. “These guys have played most of the courses that we’ll play in the fall, so they’re a good source of knowledge for the other guys … they will look up to them for a lot of information.”

While Hankins said he may or may not name actual captains, the pair of seniors undoubtedly be the leaders given their experience.

When asked if he felt there was a level of uncertainty about the rest of his teammates’ experience, Brant said, “Yes, without a doubt.”

“Since [my] freshman year, the heart of the lineup has stayed the same for three years — until Hopfinger and Vince graduated,” he said. “It definitely has a different feel, and there is a little uncertainty because we don’t know who will fill out the lineup.”

“The team dynamics are different, but we still have the same goal: To be the best we can every week,” Brant said. “It just may take different tools to get there this year.”


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