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Home course gives Hawkeyes advantage

BY RYAN MURPHY | APRIL 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa men's golf team plays on a completely different course with different tendencies every time it competes.

The Hawkeyes will tee off on the one place they know best — Finkbine — in this weekend's Hawkeye-Great River Invitational.

"The difference in our sport is that it's not a set stage," Iowa head coach Mark Hankins said. "It's a different golf course every week, so you may or may not be best suited for that golf course."

The Hawkeyes and their competition will play 36 holes on the course Saturday, followed by an 18-hole final round on April 15. Play will begin with a shotgun start at 9 a.m. on both days.

The 7,180-yard, par-72 course is home for the Hawkeyes. The Hawkeye Invitational has been held at the course the past two seasons, and Iowa claimed the tournament title both years.

Iowa senior Chris Brant said the Hawkeyes know the little twists and turns of Finkbine better than anyone.

"It's definitely an advantage for us. Finkbine is a tough course if you haven't played it very much, and there are intricacies of Finkbine that are difficult," he said. "We play the course every day, and we know where to hit it and where not to hit it."

Iowa sophomore Steven Ihm said that despite knowing the course better than any other team, the Hawkeyes aren't anywhere close to an automatic win.

"It's obviously a pretty distinct advantage for us," Ihm said. "A lot of these teams have played here before, but we get the chance to play here every single day, so we are a little more well-equipped to play the course. But you still have to play well enough to win."

Hankins said there is one drawback to playing in Iowa City.

"The only disadvantage is that you're playing in front of a lot of people you're not used to playing in front of," he said. "[The golfers] have to manage themselves in a way that allows them to concentrate on golf and not their surroundings."

Ihm also said that he and his teammates need to block out the madness of playing in front of a home crowd.

"It should be fun, but you can't let too much of that get to your head," Ihm said. "If you are too jacked up, then you aren't focused on what you are trying to do, and that's winning golf tournaments."

Four of the nation's top 100 — Iowa, Iowa State, North Carolina-Charlotte, and Michigan State — lead the field.  Four other Big Ten programs — Nebraska, Minnesota, Penn Sate, and Wisconsin — are also in the running. Missouri-Kansas City, Washington State, and Miami University round out the field.

Hankins said no tournament is more important than the one at Finkbine this weekend, even with events such as the Big Ten championships and the NCAA regionals on the horizon.

"I've made it pretty clear that this is the most important tournament on our schedule right now," Hankins said. "We need to play well in every tournament leading up to a possible bid in the NCAA Tournament."

Follow DI men's golf reporter Ryan Murphy on Twitter.


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