Commentary: Steven Ihm is big time

BY DANNY PAYNE | JULY 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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Before the John Deere Classic, Hawkeye golf coach Mark Hankins made a comment about turning professional.

“The day you turn pro, it just changes you; you’re just a different person,” Hankins said. “Your goals change, your determination increases, you start treating it more like a job; it’s not about being emotional out there. It’s just go to work, honestly go to work and be the best player you can be.”

He was talking about Steven Ihm, who made his professional d├ębut at TPC Deere Run on July 10.

But the most impressive part wasn’t making the cut after firing a 65 (6-under) on the tournament’s second day or his tying for 27th in the end at 10-under.

No, the story is not that the former Iowa golfer turned professional, but rather that he turned into a professional.

It didn’t happen right off the bat, however. A rough opening round of 73 (2-over) put Ihm in the hole early. He missed numerous putts for birdie and squandered chances to get out of the gate hot. Ihm played this round in a Hawkeye golf polo.

Things changed the following day. The Peosta native sunk nine birdies, including six over the span of his final nine holes. One of his best holes of the tournament came in this span.

Playing par-four No. 18, Ihm sat at even on the day and was running out of time to make a move to get to the 36-hole cut of 2-under. He hooked his approach shot within inches of a tree and landed the ball within a few feet of the pin. He birdied the hole, getting the wheels going before making the turn.

Ihm played this round, whether it was by design or was a coincidence, in a John Deere Classic shirt.
From that round on, the true professional Ihm was on display. He didn’t play as well in his weekend rounds as he did in his second, but he showed that even if he wasn’t playing his best golf, he still fought his way to pretty damn good finish.

A four hole-stretch during his third round was most telling. After saving a par after a rough No. 14, Ihm found himself on the fairway’s right side, roughly 20 yards behind a scoreboard.

Looking directly into a graphic of his face, Ihm set himself up well for an easy pitch onto the green. He then missed a tap-in for a bogey. On No. 16, he put his ball out of bounds and took another bogey.

Sitting at 1-over for the tournament, Ihm wouldn’t go down. He absolutely cooked his drive and put his approach 11 feet from the hole for a potential eagle. He sunk it, drawing a roar from the gallery and undoing the mistakes on the previous two holes.

Off the green, an occurrence put what the former Hawkeye was doing into perspective.

Beginning during Ihm’s nine-birdie round, a group of his friends began “beers for birdies,” which meant finishing a beverage for each hole in which he gained a stroke.

Of course, an eagle meant two drinks to finish, and they had to do it quickly. This happened while their friend walked toward the next tee box, at age 22.

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