Kelpin strokes way to top

BY BEN SCHUFF | OCTOBER 27, 2011 7:20 AM

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Barrett Kelpin has returned to the top of Iowa golf.

He led the Hawkeyes with a stroke average of 72 during the spring season of 2010. In fact, his entire sophomore year was one of great success; the Kalamazoo, Mich., native's combined fall and spring season stroke average of 72.8 is the second-lowest in school history.

But his scoring average dropped to 74.52 last year. While he wasn't necessarily golfing poorly, his play was overshadowed by the performances of Brad Hopfinger and Vince India en route to Iowa's highest finish ever at NCAAs.

Now, Kelpin is back.

He leads the Hawkeyes with a stroke average of 72.25 through four tournaments this fall. His three top-10 finishes are as many as anyone else on the team, and he and Steven Ihm lead Iowa with five subpar rounds.

He has also arguably been the Black and Gold's most consistent golfer. Kelpin has been Iowa's second-lowest scorer at all four tournaments this fall and is the only Hawkeye to finish among Iowa's top two in each event.

Kelpin's play has caught the attention of some of the national golf media; he's ranked No. 39 in Golfweek's latest college rankings, a huge improvement from last year's rank of No. 244.

While the 22-year-old said he's been "pretty happy" with his play this fall, Kelpin hasn't accomplished the one goal he set back in August: to win a tournament.

"He's a much better player now than he was [as a sophomore]," Iowa head coach Mark Hankins said. "His short game is better; his consistency, ball-striking-wise, is better. Mentally, he's better. But the thing about golf is, that doesn't always result in better tournament finishes."

Kelpin's best finish this year was at the Gopher Invitational on Sept. 11-12, when he placed second behind teammate Chris Brant. In order to get where Brant was in Minnesota, Kelpin has been focusing on his short game — an area he said is most crucial to success.

"The areas around the green are the areas I need to work on," Kelpin said. "If I can just get to the point where I'm getting up-and-down a couple more times each round — or just one more time each round — it'll save me those three or four shots each tournament I need to be right there at the top."  

Both Kelpin and Hankins said the senior's improved play from a year ago can be attributed to an overall development as a golfer. It's not just the learning experiences, nor is it just having a better swing.

It's both.

"I'm definitely a lot more mature on the golf course now," Kelpin said. "I know how to get the ball around the golf course better and how to keep it right in front of me and not throw shots away by hitting it here, hitting it there into a bad spot.

"I feel like I'm a better player now because I feel like I haven't played my best, but I'm finishing like I did that spring. Then, I felt like I was playing as good as I could have been. I feel like now I have a lot more to give."

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