Golfers from different locales bring unique skills to Iowa


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The season before Mark Hankins took over as the head coach of Iowa men’s golf ┬áteam, in 2006, the team had 13 players, all from Iowa. When Hankins arrived, his hyper-local squad hailed from nearby places such as Cedar Rapids, Coralville, and Iowa City proper.

Seven years later, the club sports seven athletes from five different states and one from Thailand. Diversifying the roster has been the name of the game for Hankins.

“They all have their different interests and different backgrounds,” the six-year coach said. “And they help each other learn. One thing we do have is a lot of Midwestern kids.”

In 2007, the first year with Hankins at the helm, the Hawks had seven players from Iowa. The next season, there were only four.

This season’s Black and Gold golf crew has only two players from Iowa and two from Illinois. The remaining players are from Missouri, Kansas, Ohio, and Bangkok, Thailand.

Iowa native Steven Ihm said that having players from different locales is essential to creating a winning program.

“It’s hard to make a good team with players from only one state,” the junior said. “There’s generally only one or two quality golfers from each state, so you have to go out-of-state and get them.”

Hankins said that each player brings his distinct flavor to the squad. Having many different experiences on the many different styles of courses gives the team advantages whenever it plays somewhere new.

For instance, Joseph Winslow, who hails from Overland Park, Kan., said the type of grass he’s played on for most of his life is different from the grass on most courses the Hawkeyes play on.

“Everyone notices different things in different areas,” the sophomore said. “I’m used to hitting off of zoysia grass, and everyone else is used to bent grass. When we play on a course with zoysiagrass, I can show everyone how best to hit off of it.”

Another attractive aspect to out-of-state swingers is that the Iowa Golf Association allows golfers playing for the Iowa golf team to take part in state events such as the Iowa Amateur or Iowa Open tournaments, even if they’re from another state.

Hankins said some Hawkeye golfers stay in Iowa City over the summer to golf in the Iowa tournaments instead of golfing in their home state or country.

But coming together as a team hasn’t been difficult. Winslow said the athletes are similar enough in their Midwestern backgrounds that they have more in common than not.

“Because they’re all Midwestern players, they often play in the same tournaments,” Hankins said.

“They’re good enough that they’ve played in a lot of national level tournaments. At Iowa, they’ll get the experience of traveling as a team and growing together as adults.”

When looking for players to recruit, Hankins said, the Hawks try to pluck the top player from each state in the Midwest. But the head coach looks for more than just athletic skill when scouting.

Hankins searches for golfers who have the attitude and personality that will mesh best with the team he’s trying to create. He said regardless of the state the players come from, they try to get the best players.

“We usually look for Midwestern kids who understand we’ve been a pretty good golf team for the last four years,” Hankins said. “They want to be a part of a great program.”

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