Iowa men's golf solid in first day of Golfweek Conference Challenge


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BURLINGTON, Iowa — Brad George said on Sept. 21 he needed to play the Golfweek Conference Challenge with more focus.

After the first day of competition at Spirit Hollow Golf Course, it appears he is doing so.

George fired a 2-under 70 on Sunday, recording three birdies and only one bogey.   

"My iron shots and my driver were really good today," the Marion native said. "That allowed me to hit a lot of greens."

George is one of nine golfers tied for eighth individually. Iowa head coach Mark Hankins said. George's solid play was a pleasant surprise from the standpoint that the senior is Iowa's No. 4 golfer.  
He struggled at the Gopher Invitational on Sept. 11-12, posting rounds of 9-over, 3-over, and 7-over.

But on Monday, George posted his first subpar round of the fall season.

"We talked about it after Minnesota," Hankins said. "We decided we needed to change a few things; our mental approach to the practice rounds would get [him] better prepared to play a good competitive round."

Overall, George ended the first day as one of three Hawkeyes in the red. Chris Brant also finished at 2-under, and sophomore Steven Ihm is tied for 17th at 1-under. The Hawkeyes are tied with Oklahoma State for third as a team at 5-under.

Brant, last year's Golfweek Conference Challenge cochampion, had an eventful 18 holes on Sunday. He birdied the par-4 first hole before carding three bogeys and two birdies the rest of the way to finish the front nine at even par.

Then on the par-5 10th, the senior used a sand wedge from about 100 yards out to sink his approach shot and start the back nine with an eagle.

"It was a nice kick-start," Brant said. "I had been playing pretty sluggishly before that, just scraping it around and not playing very well."

On the 14th green, Brant reopened a cut on his right middle finger he originally suffered prior to the tournament. He had to use his bag towel to stop the bleeding.  

Finally on the par-5 18th, his drive sailed right of the fairway and into a creek — a designated hazard. Failing to find his ball, he took a drop and wound up bogeying the hole to finish the back nine at 2-under.  

Other Iowa golfers in action included senior Barrett Kelpin and redshirt freshman Ian Vandersee. Kelpin posted scores of 1-over on the front nine and 1-under on the back nine to finish at even par. Vandersee, who had the highest score for any Hawkeye golfer, still played well and completed his first round of 18 at 1-over.

Chattanooga leads the 15-team field after day one at 9-under. Golfer Stephan Jaeger finished with the low score for the day at 5-under 67.

Only one other school posted a subpar score — Arkansas ended at 8-under, and the Razorbacks sit in second place.

Hankins said it will be important for all five Iowa golfers to stay near even par or under in order for the Hawkeyes to repeat as the Golfweek Conference Challenge team champions.

"We got five solid scores today," Hankins said. "That's really the key to Iowa golf."

Monday tee times

Ian Vandersee (+1) — 10:30 a.m.

Barret Kelpin (E) — 10:39 a.m.

Steven Ihm (-1) — 10:48 a.m.

Brad George (-2) — 10:57 a.m.

Chris Brant (-2) — 11:06 a.m.

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