Iowa men's golf finishes fourth at Duke

BY BEN SCHUFF | OCTOBER 03, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men's golf team rode strong showings by Steven Ihm and Barrett Kelpin to a fourth-place finish at the Rod Myers Invitational on Sunday.

Iowa finished at 19-over 883 in the two-day event. The Hawkeyes ended 22 strokes behind Duke, which won the tournament with a score of 3-under 861. The Blue Devils were the only team to play under par.

Iowa had failed to place in the top five at Iowa's first two tournaments, and head coach Mark Hankins said he was pleased to finally achieve that goal.

"We put ourselves in a pretty good position after round two," Hankins said. "We had strong play by Steven and Barrett [on Sunday]; they really pulled us through."

Ihm was the top finisher for Hankins' club, placing second and using a 3-under 213 to put together his best career finish.

Consistency was crucial to Ihm's success. Only once did the first-year Hawkeye record anything higher than a bogey — he double-bogeyed the par-4 fifth hole in round one.

"It seems like we take the wind with us wherever we go, but I was able to keep [the ball] in the fairway," he said. "This course fit into my liking because you get to hit a lot of drivers … I was just figuring it out this week."

Ihm was one of only three individuals to post subpar scores at tournament's end, joining Duke's Julian Suri (5-under) — who won the event — and Baylor's Joakim Mikkelsen (1-under).

"He stuck to his game plan all week," Hankins said. "He didn't really do anything crazy, didn't make any big numbers. He just kept plugging away. I was very pleased for him and proud he was able to almost win this golf tournament."

Kelpin made the most significant move of any member of the 63-player field on Sunday by firing a 1-under 71. The senior began the day tied for 15th but ended up tied for sixth.

He posted two rounds of 1-over 73 on Oct. 1 before firing a round in the red Sunday.

The key, he said, was his play on the back nine.

After going 3-over and 2-over in the first two rounds, Kelpin played the final nine holes of the event at 1-under.

"I learned a lot from [Oct. 1]," he said. "I hit a lot of fairways and greens on the back, which is key because there are some holes that are demanding off the tee. If you can put yourself in the fairway, you'll have a lot of good opportunities."

Kelpin made such adjustments on a tough scoring day — he was one of only three golfers to post a subpar third round.

Playing in his first college event, Brian Bullington fired rounds of 4-over, even-par, and 9-over to finish tied for 38th. Hankins said he was pleased with how Bullington handled himself, given it was the freshman's first start. Next, Hankins said, Bullington just needs to learn how to close out tournaments.  

Redshirt freshman Ian Vandersee wound up one stroke better than Bullington, tying for 36th.  

Chris Brant had an uncharacteristically poor performance after leading the Hawkeyes at both of their first two tournaments. The senior carded the highest team score at 14-over.

"Overall, I'm pleased with the team performance," Hankins said. "I'm sure some of the guys are a little disappointed with their performances, but we've got a couple of weeks to get that stuff figured out."

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