Notebook: Hawkeye golfers carry momentum into home tournament

BY RYAN MURPHY | APRIL 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa men's golf team had its best stroke-play finish of the season when it finished second at the LSU National Invitational on March 31-April 1.

The Hawkeyes hope to use this weekend — their only home tournament of the year — as a springboard heading into the end of the season. Iowa has just two competitions left before the Big Ten championships, which will be held on April 27-29 in French Lick, Ind.

Iowa will host 10 teams at the Hawkeye-Great River Entertainment Invitational this weekend at Finkbine Golf Course.

The Hawkeyes held a 36-hole lead in Baton Rouge before a late charge by the host Tigers dropped Iowa to second place.

Iowa senior Chris Brant said each player learned specific things about his game, which will hopefully allow each Hawkeye to improve entering the season's home stretch.

"We definitely have a lot of momentum coming from last week," Brant said on Tuesday. "We had our best finish of the year. We were close to winning, and we all saw improvements in our games and saw positive things we can take on to this week."

A winning match-play record and a high finish in Baton Rouge puts the Hawkeyes in a similar position as the 2011 team, which finished 10th in the nation. That squad won what was then called the Hawkeye-TaylorMade Invitational.

Iowa head coach Mark Hankins said having positive tournament outings in the rear-view mirror is a positive, but it's imperative the Hawkeyes continue focusing on each weekend as single competitions.

"It's pretty much a confidence-builder, but it can be detrimental," he said. "We have to prepare for this event; each event is different, because every golf course is different and favors certain kinds of golfers."

Hawkeyes can make big statement

Iowa's competition at the Hawkeye-Great River Entertainment Invitational includes five other teams from the Big Ten: Minnesota, Penn State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Michigan State.

The Gophers also competed in Baton Rouge, and their seventh-place finish put them 36 shots behind the Hawkeyes. All of the conference teams in this weekend's action competed at the Big Ten Match-Play held on Feb. 10-11, but none met the Hawkeyes head-to-head.

Iowa is ranked the highest of the six competing conference teams, slotted at No. 27 in the nation by GolfWeek. The only other top-100 Big Ten team in the field is No. 93 Michigan State.

Iowa senior Barrett Kelpin said the number of conference teams in Iowa City will give the Hawkeyes an idea of where they stand in the league, which is beneficial with the Big Ten championships only a few weeks away.

"It's always nice to weigh yourself going into Big Tens and get an idea — individually and as a team — what it's going to be like when you get to Big Tens," Kelpin said. "When you are competing against Big Ten teams, you always want to beat them and let people know you're going to be competitive come Big Ten season."

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