Ihm peaking at the right time

BY KEVIN GLUECK | APRIL 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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Steven Ihm is playing the best golf of his college career — and with perfect timing.

Heading into this weekend’s Big Ten championships in French Lick, Ind., Ihm has tied for first the last two tournaments he’s in — the Hawkeye-Great River Entertainment Invitational and the Boilermaker Invitational — something that hasn’t been done by an Iowa golfer since Brad Schuchat also won back-to-back medalist honors in 1970.

The Peosta, Iowa, native has also played nine-straight rounds at or under par in the last three outings the Hawkeyes have had. He was also just named Big Ten Golfer of the week, with good reason.

“No, definitely not,” Ihm said when trying to recall if he’s ever had such a long streak posting red scores. “Right now, my main thought going into a round is limiting mistakes.”

Last weekend at Purdue, he did just that. The No. 46 player in the country — and highest ranked in the Big Ten, according to golfstat.com — estimates he made around 4 bogeys the entire weekend en route to his minus-5 score. He also shot minus-5 at the Hawkeye-GRE Invitational but had 16 birdies for the tournament, meaning his scorecard had more squares than he would’ve liked.

Head coach Mark Hankins said that Ihm’s mentality is one of the biggest factors in his recent hot streak.

“Some of that stuff he doesn’t know because he’s not really paying attention,” Hankins said in regards to the recent honors Ihm’s received. “He’s not worried about how good he is or what his accolades are, he’s just trying to go out every week, and post good numbers, and see if he can get a top-five finish.”

That top-five finish isn’t only the goal for Ihm but for all the players as they head into the postseason. Hankins thinks that it’s key for Ihm, and the rest of the Hawkeyes to buckle down and really execute at the Pete Dye-designed course.

“The interesting thing about our conference championship is that it’s based on one tournament,” Hankins said. “It’s not necessarily the best team, it’s who plays the best this weekend. We have to go earn our position to be in contention in the final round.”

It’s not the first time Iowa’s played at the Pete Dye Course — it hosted the Big Ten championships last season. For Nate Yankovich, Joseph Winslow, and Brian Bullington, it’s their first conference tournament in college. Not all of the players are unfamiliar with the course, though.

Brian Bullington played the course in the summer, knowing that the Big Ten championships were held at the course. The sophomore thinks the time spent practicing on the links will ease him into playing.

“The more comfortable you are, generally the better you play,” he said. “Now it’s just a matter of going out and doing it.”

Hankins said that his players’ knowledge of course, along with his, will lead to a winning performance April 28.

“Hopefully, we’ll prepare better and that will show up in a better team performance,” he said. “Hopefully, as a collective group, we can be better than everyone else.”

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