Iowa golfers set record in Hawkeye Invite win

BY RYAN MURPHY | APRIL 16, 2012 6:30 AM

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It wasn't easy for the Iowa men's golf team.

The Hawkeyes battled winds up to 30 miles an hour, and a late charge from in-state rival Iowa State.

But none of it was enough to topple the No. 27 Hawkeyes on their home course over the weekend.

Iowa posted a team score of 840 (24-under), a new 54-hole tournament record, and bested the Cyclones by two strokes to claim the Hawkeye-Great River Entertainment Invitational championship on Sunday at Finkbine Golf Course in Iowa City.

It was the Hawkeyes' third consecutive Hawkeye Invite title, and the first victory in the 2012 season for the squad.

The Cyclones shot 8-under on Sunday and nearly caught the Hawkeyes in the final holes after Iowa had established a 6-stroke lead on the first day of the tournament. But birdies from Joseph Winslow and Steven Ihm in the final three holes of their rounds helped Iowa hang on.

Senior Barrett Kelpin, who finished in a tie for fifth place, said the Hawkeyes hit some big shots to hang onto their first victory.

"Iowa State didn't give anything to us down the stretch, and we finished well in the closing holes to fight them off," Kelpin said. "It always comes down to the final few holes when these tournaments get close."

The weather was also a factor in Sunday's play. Storms on April 14 turned a few bunkers into water hazards, and gusting winds made an already difficult Finkbine course even more challenging than usual.

Iowa head coach Mark Hankins said birdies were hard to come by.

"It was tough all day long; it was wet early, and down the stretch it [the wind] was blowing at 25 miles per hour," Hankins said. "Just making pars down the stretch was tough."

Iowa's top two individuals in the tournament both carded 1-over 73s in the final round. Senior Chris Brant — who had played 40 consecutive bogey-free holes before finishing his tournament with back-to-back bogies — finished in second place with an 8-under 208. Brant was 6 shots behind individual champion Nate McCoy of Iowa State, who set a new 54-hole tournament record.

Brant said he was pleased with second place despite his finish.

"I'm not too disappointed with second place. Nate [McCoy] played really, really well," Brant said. "I would have needed to make a considerable amount of birdies today."

Iowa's other top-four finisher was senior Brad George. George was competing as an individual, meaning his score had no effect on the Hawkeyes' team score.

Hankins said he liked seeing production from the players outside the starting lineup.

"Everyone's trying to play for themselves," Hankins said. "We've got a pretty deep team, and everyone is trying to contest for that starting five."

The Hawkeyes have only one more event, this weekend's Boilermaker Invitational in West Lafayette, Ind.

Hankins said he was most satisfied with the way the Hawkeyes were able to maintain a lead, especially one they were given a night to think about.

"I'm pleased with the way we had a lead after two rounds, went to sleep on that lead, and then came out and won the tournament," Hankins said.

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