Hawkeye golf struggling in final rounds

BY BEN SCHUFF | OCTOBER 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa men's golf coach Mark Hankins said he doesn't like talking about Iowa's third-round performances.

That's because they've been less than ideal.

The No. 22 Iowa men's golf team has posted its highest score in the final round of each of its three tournaments this fall.

Compare that with last year — when the Hawkeyes' high round came on the last day in only four of their 11 tournaments throughout both the fall and spring seasons — and it becomes clear this is an occurrence Hankins wants to stop.

"We have to learn how to have that killer instinct and want to go out and figure out how to relax [and] figure out how to score and post a good number," he said. "That only comes with experience, and that only comes with believing in yourself."

Hankins and members of the team have been quick to point out the youth of this year's Hawkeyes, and a lack of experience could be a simple answer to Iowa's third-round woes.

In its first tournament at Minnesota, Iowa's two highest third-round scores came from a pair of Hawkeyes playing in their first Division-I event.

The same could be said for the third round at last weekend's Rod Myers Invitational. The two highest scoring rounds again came from sources of inexperience: Brian Bullington, who was playing in his first college tournament, and Ian Vandersee, playing in his third.

"We got three new guys on the team who are kind of still getting their feet under them," senior Barrett Kelpin said following the team's third round at the Rod Myers Invitational on Oct. 2. "Once they get more comfortable and get more experience, I think our final round scores will be more consistent.

"I know I felt a lot of pressure, too, when I was starting out, to play well on the last day. Once they calm down a little bit, I think they'll be just fine."

Fellow senior Chris Brant expressed similar feelings about third-round play at the college level. Brant said it took him "a few tournaments" his freshman year before he was comfortable during the final 18 holes of play in an event.

When asked if the problem could simply be nerves, Brant said, "Could be, yeah. Definitely."
"I think the nerves are elevated in the final round for some of the younger guys just because they don't know much about it," he said. "They haven't had those experiences."

Over the first three tournaments this fall, Iowa's average stroke difference between its lowest scoring round and the third round is 15 strokes. And it's not as if one bad round has created a slanted average; the difference in the first tournament was 12 strokes, the second 19, and the third 14.

Whatever the cause, the team is aware this trend needs to be reversed if improved tournament finishes are going to occur.

"Maybe there's this attitude of trying a little too hard on the last day trying to win, and I don't think that leads to good scores," Brant said. "I think if we can just play relaxed and have as much fun in the third round as the first two rounds, it will lead to better success."

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