Iowa men’s golf scrapes top-five finish to cap fall season


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Like the ups and downs on the fairways of some golf courses, the fall season of the Iowa men’s golf team was filled with highs and lows.

The autumn culminated with a fifth-place finish among 14 teams in the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate, hosted by Baylor and SMU, at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas on Tuesday.

Sophomore Ian Vandersee tied for first place in the 80-man field to record his first Division-I victory. Despite the top-five finish for the team, the Hawks dropped from third place to fifth on the final day. The story of the tournament was indicative of the team’s whole season: inconsistency.

“We’re not really happy with our last day,” head coach Mark Hankins said. “We didn’t put up good numbers today. Anytime you go backwards on the last day, it’s not a good feeling.”

The Black and Gold ended the first round 5 over, tied for third. The squad dropped five strokes in round two to card an even-par round and remain in a tie for third. Iowa couldn’t maintain the momentum in the final day, however —the team shot 13 over, tied for the worst score of the day, and dropped to fifth.

Vandersee nailed a birdie putt on the final hole of the tournament to tie for first with Oklahoma State’s Ian Davis. The Hawkeye golfer shot a first round 6 under, second round 1 under, and an even par third round.

“I didn’t anticipate a win at all,” Vandersee said. “I felt on the inside it was only a matter of time before I won one, but it’s still a surprise. It feels great.”

Joseph Winslow was another Iowa golfer to finish under par for the tournament. The sophomore shot even par, a 3 under, and a 2 over in his three rounds to place tied for 16th.

Junior Steven Ihm finished tied for 51st with a score of 6 over, and sophomore Brian Bullington tied for 59th with an 8 over. Junior Ryan Marks carded a 12 over and tied for 74th place.

“We actually played pretty well,” Ihm said. “We struggled at some points, and the scores showed that, but we definitely played better than our last tournament.”

Iowa has seen a tide of ups and downs this season. The squad opened its campaign with a 10th-place finish in the Golden Gopher Invitational. The team found its groove in the next two tournaments, placing fourth in the Golfweek Conference Challenge and fifth in the Rod Myers Invitational.

The Black and Gold had a major hiccup in the U.S. Collegiate Championship, though — last among 15 teams.

“Overall, we had a good finish to the season,” Hankins said. “We got better every tournament, and we beat a lot of good teams. We need to expect for more as a team because that is what’s going to give us more.”

Ihm, Vandersee, Marks, and Bullington played in every tournament of the fall season. Ihm was the most consistent Iowa swinger with four top-30 finishes. The Peosta, Iowa, native recorded a 10th-place finish at the Rod Myers Invitational and a runner-up finish at the Golfweek Conference Challenge.

The Hawkeyes now have a four-month break to prepare for the spring season. The team will begin play in Bradenton, Fla., in the Big Ten Match Play Championships on Feb. 8-9. Hankins said the team will practice outside as long as the players can and will also begin conditioning five days a week.

“We’ve still got guys figuring it out,” he said. “We definitely got better as the season went on. We just need to manage our expectations and find individual consistency.”

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