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Hawkeye women's hoops holds fundraiser for overseas trip

BY TAYLOR AXELSON | JUNE 06, 2012 6:30 AM

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Teams of four sped off in golf carts across the Finkbine Golf Course Tuesday in support of the Iowa women's basketball team. The annual golf tournament raises money for the team's overseas trip that it takes every four years.

Many Big Ten teams take trips overseas to increase their skills and knowledge of the game and keep up with the competition. For the trip of a lifetime, the opportunity for the players is priceless — not only in terms of wins on the basketball court but also for seeing the world.

"We can find the best basketball competition, as well as taking the players to a new country to experience the culture," head coach Lisa Bluder said. "Just being able to take our players to the Eiffel Tower — that's a memory I will never forget."

The Women's Basketball Golf Extravaganza is the only fundraiser the team hosts each year, and it costs each team $500 to participate in the main competition. The amount of money the event produces varies, but it has stayed consistently around $25,000 when the entry fees and other daily activities — such as a silent auction — are combined. This amount generates enough to send every player on a trip at least once during her Hawkeye tenure.

There were celebrity golfers in attendance, and teams were able to bid on them to join their group. The Hawkeye athletics stars — former men's basketball coach Tom Davis, Athletics Director Gary Barta, former All-American tight end Marv Cook, women's golf head coach Megan Menzel, and women's basketball radio analyst Shelley Till — all gave an edge to the teams.

While the score is officially recorded, the golfers don't forget that their mission is to raise money for the Hawkeyes. The environment is lighthearted and fun; Davis' team named itself "The Big Dogs."

Eric Upchurch, a member of Till's team, was happy to be on the green for a good cause. He said the goal to send the Hawkeyes overseas stays in his mind throughout the event.

"If I could go anywhere overseas to play golf, I'd have to go to Ireland," he said.

The women's team went on a 12-day tour through Prague (Czech Republic), Bratislava (Slovakia), Vienna, and Paris in August 2011. The Hawkeyes played three games while they were in Europe, all against teams local to the area they were staying in at that time.

The Hawkeyes were able to share their experiences with Iowa fans while overseas. The team won all three games, and an online journal was updated by the players. They documented the competition of the teams they played and also the leisure time of the trip — the food they ate, things they learned, and memories they made sightseeing.

The team doesn't know yet where it will go in three years, but officials are leaning towards Italy.

But the first step is finding the funds to make it possible. The women's basketball team has created the perfect mix of competition and charity to get the job done.

Janet Holtus, a regular participant in the Golf Extravaganza, sunk a putt for a birdie and celebrated. She accepted high-fives and congratulations from her teammates.

 "That was good, the best we could hope for," Holtus said. "We're just happy to be out here and support the women's athletics."


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