Iowa men's golf holds Alumni Challenge


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After two weekends of tense tournaments that shaped where the Iowa men’s golf team stands on a national scale, the squad took the time to play a relaxing round of golf with numerous alumni on Sept. 21.

The sixth-annual Iowa Men’s Golf Alumni Challenge featured approximately 50 former Hawkeyes golfers and eight members of the current golf team playing 18 holes that were both enjoyable and challenging.

“They definitely play for fun,” head coach Mark Hankins said. “But these guys are all former players, so they are competitive. It’s a great way to go out and spend four hours with your friends.”

The Challenge was a five-person best-ball tournament that featured 11 teams picked by the alumni. Most quintets consisted of four alumni and one current Iowa golfer.

Prizes were awarded for the top six teams. First prize was four Taylormade RBZ drivers (estimated value of $250 each) and an engraved Alumni Challenge trophy that will be kept in the Hawkeye trophy case at Finkbine.

“We give everyone numerous reasons to come back,” Hankins said. “There’s the football game [on Sept. 22], and lot of them have the opportunity to meet up with old friends and family. It’s a nice culmination of a weekend.”

There were also smaller prizes — such as golf shoes and belly putter — for the teams that had a player hit closest to the hole on holes 4, 8, 13, and 17 and the longest drive on holes 2 and 11.

Hankins said the pin placements were made difficult and the greens were made faster to challenge the golfers even more. To keep the pace of the event up, teams were limited to only one putt per hole.

“It’s a learning opportunity [for the golfers],” Hankins said. “It’s also a great chance for our alums to get to know them. For our guys it’s more about conveying how the program is doing right now.”

Just a sample of some of the more prominent alumni that took part in the event were Lonnie Nielsen, who has made more than $5 million in career earnings in the PGA Champions Tour, and Sean McCarty, a former All-American who is now the director of golf at Brown Deer Golf Club in Coralville. There were also four members of the 1992 Big Ten championship team.

An awards dinner was held after the event at the University Athletics Club to give recognition to the best golfers in the Challenge.

“It’s nothing real serious,” 2011 Big Ten golfer of the year Vince India said. “We’re just here to see a bunch of old guys we haven’t seen in a while. They’re all really awesome guys, and we have fun every year.”

The Black and Gold placed 10th in the Golden Gopher Invitational on Sept. 9-10 and finished fourth in the Golfweek Conference Challenge on Sept. 16-18. Iowa golfer Steven Ihm said it was nice to play a round of golf with former Hawkeyes that wouldn’t be taken too seriously.

“They don’t really try to pass on too much wisdom,” Ihm said. “It’s just fun meeting new people. Some of these guys are still in the golf game and some aren’t, but they all have good connections.”

Iowa will have a few more weeks to relax and practice before they take part in the Rod Myers Invitational at Duke on Oct. 13-14. But for one day, the team could forget about the season and enjoy a round of golf with no pressures.

“If you went out to dinner or visited with someone, you might spend an hour or two with them,” Hankins said. “Here we get to spend about five hours with your old buddies from college.”

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