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Men's golf heads to Golfweek Conference Challenge

BY BEN SCHUFF | SEPTEMBER 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men's golf team started slowly last fall when it placed sixth at the Gopher Invitational.

Then the Hawkeyes got hot and won their next four tournaments.

Eleven days ago, Iowa again placed sixth at the Gopher Invitational.

On Sept. 25, head coach Mark Hankins' squad will begin its effort to repeat as the winner of the Golfweek Conference Challenge in Burlington. The tournament begins Sept. 25, and the final round will be played on Sept. 27.

The 15-team field is packed with quality competition, including eight schools that finished inside Golfstat.com's top-50 rankings last year: Oklahoma State (No. 1), Georgia Tech (No. 3), Iowa (No. 9), Arkansas (No. 17), California (No. 18), Chattanooga (No. 36), North Texas (No. 44), and Kennesaw State (No. 45). New rankings for this fall season have yet to be released.

Hankins maintained his stance that this year's team is much different from last year's, and he said he hasn't talked much about the successes of last fall.

"Just looking at the field, I told the guys a top five out of 15 at this golf course is going to be a really good finish," he said. "It's a nationally ranked field; our main concern is that we manage ourselves."

Hankins said he thinks even-par will be a good score at Spirit Hollow golf course.

Such success hinges on getting quality rounds from all five golfers throughout the tournament.

At the first tournament in Minnesota, seniors Chris Brant and Barrett Kelpin finished first and second individually. But lackluster play from Brad George and Ian Vandersee β€” and Steven Ihm in the final round β€” led to a sixth-place team finish.

Those same five golfers will head to Spirit Hollow today and have a practice round on Saturday.

Aside from posting low scores, Hankins and members of the team said building trust in only the second event of the fall will be key.

"This year, we've got some guys who have played, but we have some new guys on the team, and we're still building trust," Hankins said. "These guys have to understand every shot counts."
Senior Brad George expressed a similar belief.

"[Last year], we were so experienced and knew what each others' games were like because we had been together for three years," George said. "This is kind of a new team, and we're still trying to figure out everyone's game and basically trust in everyone that he'll do his job.

"If [each of us does our job] and we have trust, I think the result will be pretty good."

George said continual improvement will go a long way toward building trust among the team.

After struggling at the Gopher Invitational, he attributed his poor play to a lack of focus and said maintaining his mental sharpness at the Golfweek event should lead to fewer strokes.

Ihm had just the opposite problem. He said he needs to maintain an even-keel approach throughout all three rounds β€” something he wasn't able to do at the last meet.

"The first two rounds, I was keeping my thoughts simple and was relatively calm," said Ihm, who posted two rounds of 2-over before finishing the final round 13-over. "You can overthink it sometimes. You have to have a happy medium."


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