Ihm solid as No. 3 golfer

BY BEN SCHUFF | OCTOBER 04, 2011 7:20 AM

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Steven Ihm has always been a confident golfer.

The Indian Hills Community College transfer was quick to point out during the first week of practice that he wouldn't have come to Iowa City if he didn't think he would play right away. After all, he still had a year of eligibility remaining at Indian Hills.

But now, his confidence is growing.

"I don't want to just play with the boys now," he said. "I want to be one of the leaders [and] try to compete for a championship every tournament."

Through three tournaments this fall, Ihm has solidifiied himself as Iowa's No. 3 golfer and a consistent scorer behind seniors Chris Brant and Barrett Kelpin.

The Dubuque native played his best golf as a Hawkeye this past weekend at the Rod Myers Invitational, in which he finished second.

For the first time in his short Iowa career, he was able to put together three solid rounds — he carded a 2-under 70 in both the first two rounds and 1-over 73 on the final day.

"Obviously, he's progressing," Iowa head coach Mark Hankins said. "He felt a little bit more comfortable in this tournament coming into the final round, and he finished off a good tournament."

His final day improvement was a welcome change for the Hawkeyes.

At the first tournament in Minnesota, Ihm spoiled a pair of 2-over 74 scores by shooting a 13-over 85 in the third round.

Then at the Golfweek Conference Challenge 13 days later, he fired rounds of 1-under 71 and even par before triple-bogeying the par-3 16th hole on the final day and firing a 6-over 78.

But this time, he was able to reverse his final-round woes.

"I would really attribute that to just slowing down," he said. "On that last day, you can kind of get ahead of yourself — you almost want the round to be over so you can see where you're at in the field."

Ihm has also decreased the amount of "big numbers" on his score card through his three tournaments. He recorded four double-bogeys or worse at the Gopher Invitational on Sept. 11-12, but since then has recorded only two in the last two events combined.

"When you get in trouble, just chip out and take your bogey," said Ihm, who only had five holes over par for the entire Rod Myers Invitational. "When you start trying to pull off those miracle shots, that's when you start posting those big numbers."

Brant's struggles this past weekend placed even more significance on Ihm's play. The Edwardsville, Ill., native — who has played all three tournaments as Iowa's No. 1 — shot the highest team score at 14-over for the tournament.

Brant said it's "really important" to have someone like Ihm play to the point where the team can have a consistent third scorer.

He pointed to last year's team — one that finished the season at nationals — as an example of what can happen when they get five golfers playing well at the same time.

"The more guys we can have as steady scorers — that's a great asset," Brant said. "When [we get five guys all playing well], I think we can compete with anybody."

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