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Schaake's Big Ten Title a sign of things to come

BY KYLE MANN | MAY 05, 2015 5:00 AM

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Carson Schaake has had a stellar sophomore season for the Iowa men’s golf team that culminated with an individual co-title at the Big Ten Championships at Victoria National Golf Club on April 26.

The sophomore likely made a strong first impression on observers around the conference, but those close to him have felt Schaake has built toward this success all season.

He placed fourth in the Hawkeye-Great River Entertainment Invitational on April 18-19, largely thanks to shooting a 66 in the second round. He did himself one better on the conference stage, putting himself at the top of the leaderboard with a 65 in the first round.

“I haven’t had a round like that in competition in a long time, so it was nice to get off to a really hot start,” Schaake said. “After that first round, I knew I was right in it, and if I kept playing solidly, I could win.”

Schaake kept up his strong play, although he briefly relinquished the lead on the second day and was deadlocked for most of the final round with Nick Hardy of Illinois atop the leaderboard. Schaake trailed Hardy by 3 strokes entering the final day, and head coach Tyler Stith raved about Schaake’s composure down the stretch.

“I knew that second day would be tough for him,” Stith said. “As a competitor sometimes, when you have a lead like that, you start thinking ‘Am I playing too conservatively?’ or ‘Should I still be attacking?’ And I think he handled it well. He recovered, and bounced back on that final day, and played really well.”

Stith and assistant coach Dan Holterhaus had their eyes on the leaderboard for most of the final afternoon but kept Schaake largely in the dark regarding his standing. Stith and Schaake agreed that he performs his best when he is simply playing his game.

When Schaake and Hardy were still knotted up heading to the 18th hole, however, it was time to see how he would respond to the pressure.

With both at 5-under, the Iowa sophomore was in a bunker and he had to match Hardy’s bogey to earn himself a share of the title.

“Dan was aware of the situation for the last few holes, but Carson didn’t know until 18,” Stith said. “He came up to me after he hit his bunker shot and said ‘Do I have to make this?’ I said, ‘Yeah, you’re tied,’ and he said, ‘All right.’ That’s just an example of someone who wants to be in that moment and isn’t afraid to make a putt to win a tournament.”

For a sophomore in a head-to-head battle — senior Brian Bullington, Schaake’s roommate — knew Schaake wouldn’t shrink from the occasion.

“Just the type of kid and player he is, I knew after his start he was going to be right around the lead, and I knew if the situation came to it, he would step up,” Bullington said. “And he did. It was cool to see.”

Schaake has definitely peaked in recent weeks, but he wants to make very clear that this is his standard.

“All year, my game has been there,” Schaake said. “The one thing I don’t want people to think is this is just a hot streak for me, or it’s going to end here. No; this is how I expect to play all the time.”

Follow @KyleFMann on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa men’s golf team.


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