Hankins ups recruiting over his six-year tenure


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Change can be good, or it can be bad. In the history of the Iowa men’s golf team, the kind brought on by Mark Hankins when he became head coach of the Hawkeyes in 2006 has probably been the best for the program.

Hankins said the team was in sorry shape when he arrived, ranked 145th in the nation. Now, six years later, the Hawkeyes have received 31 votes in the NCAA coaches’ poll.

Hankins has used recruiting to fashion a new Hawkeye golf team centered on the player’s attitudes and personalities as well as their potential. This strategy has brought the squad almost immediate results that have continued into the 2012-13 season.

Success is something Hankins is accustomed to seeing. In seven seasons as the head coach at Michigan State, the Spartans made it to five NCAA Tournaments and won two Big Ten championships. He said his success was one factor that started bringing talent to Iowa when he took over.

“Having success at Michigan State gave me some credibility with players in the Midwest,” he said. “Knowing the players of this region and finding success with them is one of the biggest draws.”

Hankins named four players — Barrett Kelpin, Brad Hopfinger, Chris Brant, and Brad George — as some of the few early recruits that helped build the program to where it is today.

Some of the eventual Hawkeyes knew about Hankins from his time as the Spartan head coach. Hopfinger, a transfer from Kansas in fall of 2008, said the way Hankins persuaded him to play for Iowa was simple.

“He laid out all the strengths of the team,” the 2011 graduate said. “He showed me the strength of schedule, the facilities, and how the team would be traveling. He went out and got more competitive players who wanted to win. We all wanted to win.”

The continuous cycle of recruiting golfers with potential to succeed and then shaping them into quality athletes has gone according to plan. The team has advanced to the NCAA championships in three out of the last four seasons, a feat only accomplished by 21 other Division-I teams during that time.

Hankins said Kelpin, Hopfinger, Brant, and George are playing professional golf in some capacity.

“We want to get players who want to play professional golf — that’s their motivation right there,” Hankins said. “They work hard for us every day, and they will win.”

He sees and sells Iowa golf as a pathway into a career in golf, with options beyond touring for a profession. A career at Iowa can also set the golfers up for a lifetime of being golf teachers or professionals for courses. He pointed out that the aforementioned quartet has made their golf aspirations become a reality.

The success that Hankins and the Black and Gold have experienced recently hasn’t made recruiting easier, but it has given them a foot in the door that they might not have gotten before.

The awareness of how well the team does, as well as other factors such as the new golf facility scheduled to be completed this winter, has attracted the attention of top players.

Current Iowa golfer Ryan Marks said the way Hankins has shaped the team in the past has continued in the team’s current incarnation.

“It’s super important to bring the right guys in and run things the right way,” Marks said. “Coach Hankins brings guys who work hard and fit the Hawkeye golf mold. Each player has a good family and loves to play the game.”

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