Ihm’s professional début great in more than one way

BY DANNY PAYNE | JULY 14, 2014 5:00 AM

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SILVIS, Illinois — A feel-good story happened over the weekend at TPC Deere Run. Playing roughly an hour from his hometown of Peosta, Steven Ihm made his professional début.

It wasn’t just good for the former Hawkeye, it was good for his family, good for his friends, good for the John Deere Classic, and good for the beginning of his career. At the age of 22, Ihm drew a following similar in size to past Deere champions such as Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson, and Jordan Spieth.

He didn’t disappoint his followers, finishing the tournament with a score of 274 (10-under). Not too shabby for a first-timer. However, it almost failed to happen.

“If you would’ve told me standing on the 18th tee on [July 11] that I was going to be 10-under by the end of the tournament, I would’ve said, ‘Holy cow, you’ve got to be kidding me; I’m 2 over right now,’ ” Ihm said.

He was referring to his lackluster first round, in which he bogeyed five holes. Barely keeping his chances of making the cut afloat the next day, Ihm clawed his way through the back nine, which he played first. He made two birdies, including a remarkable showing on No. 18.

That hole was the first of four he birdied consecutively, and he added two more to guarantee his spot in the weekend.

While his short game was streaky at times, he consistently drove well off the tee, averaging roughly 5 yards shorter than the PGA Tour average of 296 yards. His longest drive of the week was a 333-yard strike during his second round.

He then worked his way to two rounds of 68 on July 12 and Sunday to finish the event. Ihm walked away tied for 27th place and roughly a $30,000 payday.

“His pro début, to make the cut and cash a check here on Sunday, just a great week for him,” said Ihm’s father, Jim Ihm. “Couldn’t be more thrilled for him — definitely sets the tone going forward.”

Ihm’s plan is to appear next in the Waterloo Open, which begins Thursday. Longer term, he expects to compete in Monday qualifiers for Web.com tour events and of course, eventually make his way onto the PGA Tour.

“Every good finish, when you beat good players, creates a better ranking,” Iowa golf coach Mark Hankins said. “As this is his first professional event, he’s going to have a ranking. You have to use those as résumé builder to get into the next Web.com.”

Even thought this tournament will fade in the rear-view mirror, and he won’t have as big of a following, Ihm still has to appreciate what the Deere did to kick off his career.

Not many people his age can say they shot 10-strokes under par at a PGA Tour event, and not many people his age can say they had as big of a following as a former Masters champion.

“It was an awesome coming-out party,” Ihm said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better week, and I’m really excited about going forward with my career.”

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