Men's golf looks to build depth


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Ian Vandersee swung with ease on the driving range during Wednesday's practice session at Finkbine Golf Course.

That same ease was missing from his swing during the Gopher Invitational on Sept. 11-12.

Competing in his first college tournament, Vandersee struggled mightily in Minnesota. The redshirt freshman played the entire tournament over par and finished the 54-hole event at 32-over.

He described his play as "embarrassing" and "the worst round of golf I've played in five or six years."

Joining Vandersee with performances they called disappointing were Steven Ihm (17-over for the tournament) and Brad George (19-over).

Iowa wasn't only disappointed on an individual level, but also as a team.

Vandersee acknowledged their performances spoiled those of teammates Chris Brant and Barrett Kelpin, who placed first and second individually.

Iowa placed sixth as a team but could have easily finished ahead of fourth-place Southern Methodist; the Mustangs ended the competition only three strokes better than the Hawkeyes.

"We talked, the three of us who didn't play well, and we were sick to our stomachs," Vandersee said. "We felt guilty."

Ihm's tournament was slightly different than Vandersee's, as he sat at or around par for most of the first day.

But the first-year Hawkeye fell down the leaderboard quickly during the final round after taking 17 combined strokes on the par-5 3rd hole and par-4 12th hole. He finished the third round at 13-over.

"That last round was definitely a learning experience," Ihm said, noting the importance of avoiding double-bogeys as one lesson he learned. "When in trouble, just get out of trouble."

Although head coach Mark Hankins said his team technically achieved its goal of finishing "top-five or top-six," he also didn't anticipate two Hawkeyes finishing atop the leaderboard.

"Looking back at it, you wouldn't suspect we'd have a first- and second-place, and then end up clear back in sixth place [as a team]," he said.

The main focus now, the team said, will be on strengthening the core of the squad and building a solid lineup, one through five.

Solid performances should be expected from seniors Brant and Kelpin throughout the remainder of the fall season. But even if the two continue to play as they did at the Gopher Invitational, the third, fourth, and fifth golfers for Iowa will dictate how the team places at each event going forward.

If the Hawkeyes learned anything from this past weekend's play, it was the significance of having five golfers who can all place high on the leaderboard.

Ihm said the key to turning around those third through fifth spots will be "saving shots, turning those 6s into 5s, and eliminating anything over double-bogey."

Despite his two newcomers struggling in their first tournament as a Hawkeye, Hankins said he remains confident in their abilities. The fifth-year coach said improved play will come with more experience.

"That's our culture here; it's never been about our top guy," Hankins said. "It's about five strong players all contributing at different times and everyone trying to be the No. 1 player.

"Hopefully, we can continue to build that depth — quality depth."

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