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Freshman golfer learning college swing

BY BEN SCHUFF | SEPTEMBER 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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Brian Bullington knows there’s work to be done.

Prior to Wednesday’s practice, Iowa head men’s golf coach Mark Hankins said the freshman was the only newcomer of the three first-year Hawkeyes who wasn’t in contention to make the starting five for this weekend’s tournament in Minnesota.

Although Bullington is disappointed he’ll miss the team’s first competition of the fall season, he said he’s OK with staying behind to work out some flaws.

“It’s been a learning process,” he said about his first two weeks of college golf. “It’s showed me what I need to work on and just makes me want to work that much harder.”

The native of Frankfort, Ill., is one of three highly thought-of first-year golfers Hankins brought aboard this fall. Golfweek.com ranked Bullington as the No. 56 player in the class of 2011 and the No. 2 high-school golfer coming out of the state of Illinois.

During his time at Lincoln-Way East High, he helped lead his team to three conference championships.

“We talked about it before he ever came here — that we would expect him to play here right away and hopefully get in and play all four years,” Hankins said.

But as Bullington has quickly learned, golf is a different game in college from the one in high school.

He said these past two weeks have exposed weaknesses in his game — his ball-striking in particular.

After qualifying rounds on Monday, he worked with Hankins on some fundamentals of his swing.

Specifically, the two worked on getting Bullington to properly transfer his weight during his backswing. The current flaw results in him “slapping” at the ball at times, creating an undesirable spin on the ball and an even less desirable shot.

“You need to have birdie putts; you need to have opportunities like that, and I just haven’t been giving myself [those chances],” he said. “It’s been wearing on me mentally.

“It’s close. It’s just a matter of repetition and getting in the habit, and then putting it into play.”

Besides the coaching, Bullington can also lean on his teammates’ experiences from earlier in their careers for guidance. Senior Chris Brant said he remembered how he struggled with his transition from high school to playing at Iowa.

“College golf is a different animal,” Brant said. “Barrett [Kelpin] and I noticed that coming in as freshmen. We were like, ‘Wow, this is a bit different.’ ”

Although Bullington may have issues now with his ball-striking, his teammates have taken note of how polished his short game is.

Putting, Bullington knows is his strong suit, and so he has put more importance on fine-tuning the fundamentals of his swing.

Teammate Ian Vandersee said he doesn’t see his fellow Hawkeye missing out on too many more tournaments.

“Brian has an unbelievable short game and he can putt as good as anybody on the team,” Vandersee said. “He chips and putts the golf ball so well, it’s really impressive to see. I would say his short game and putting are phenomenal.”


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