Iowa's Ihm riding confident mindset through the summer

BY CODY GOODWIN | JUNE 18, 2013 5:00 AM

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Steven Ihm and Joseph Winslow met for dinner the night before the final round of the 60th-Annual Sunnehanna Amateur Golf Tournament. The two met up at Numero Uno, an Italian restaurant not far from the course.

It had been a while since the two had last seen each other. They caught up, as good friends do, and talked about a number of things. One topic of conversation was Ihm’s then-three round lead at the tournament that weekend.

“It was a little Iowa dinner,” Winslow said. “That played into a nice, comfortable evening to help keep a lax atmosphere during an intense tournament. He was confident. He had been playing well all week.”

That confidence carried over to Sunday, where Winslow watched as Ihm made his putt on the 18th hole, securing a 2-shot victory at the prestigious amateur tournament — a win that has connected Ihm with a crop of young, talented golfers who are presiding over the PGA Tour.

“It’s definitely a big honor,” Ihm said about being on the same list as former Sunnehanna champions Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler, Lucas Clover, and Scott Verplank, among others.

“It’s one of the most prestigious tournaments out there for amateurs right now, and I’m definitely honored to be on the list of champions now,” Ihm said.

He said his consistent play — he shot under-par each day but the second — was a result of his belief in his strategy. The Peosta, Iowa, native is no stranger to Sunnehanna. Ihm competed there in 2012, where he posted a 9-over score during the four days.

Iowa men’s golf coach Mark Hankins said the experience of having previously played the Sunnehanna course was advantageous to Ihm. It taught him to adapt his game accordingly, allowing him to seek out the best ways to approach harder, tougher golf courses.

This was evident during Iowa’s spring season, too, where Ihm won back-to-back events during the regular season. He rode his spring-season momentum — the senior to be turned in a stroke average of 72.3 in the spring, good for third-best in Iowa men’s golf history — into the summer, where, in just a year’s time, Ihm went from a 37th place finish to an 8-under first place at Sunnehanna.

“Consider him a quick learner,” Hankins said. “He learned quickly how to adapt to that golf course, and he showed it this week.”

This ability to approach certain courses differently stems from Ihm becoming more confident in both his game and himself. Winslow noted that whenever he and Ihm go out to practice shots, Ihm would rather shoot a round. Winslow said his teammate of two years doesn’t worry too much about the technical side of the game. He’d rather get out and find what kind of swing is most comfortable.

“That, for the most part, is something I’ve seen,” Winslow said. “Especially in the spring — getting an extra nine [holes] in in the morning or wherever. He gets those extra reps, and that builds the confidence.”

Those extra practice holes help Ihm stay loose and keep his mind clear of any distraction that might come his way. As Ihm’s amateur ranking continues to climb the charts — he’s currently 42nd in the Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings — more opportunities to play some of the toughest competition in golf will arise.

And he’s more than ready for that.

“You could hit 100 golf shots from the range that don’t matter, but when you start to play, you have to produce golf shots the first try, and I think you learn a lot more by doing that,” Ihm said.

“[Sunnehanna] showed me that I can play with the best amateurs in the country,” he said. “And I knew that before, but it just reiterated that. It just reinforces my confidence.”

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