April 11, 2014
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa men's golf team is looking to defend its home course this weekend when it hosts the annual Hawkeye-Great River Entertainment Invitational at the UI's Finkbine Golf Course.
The Hawkeyes -- ranked 46th in the Golfstat national rankings out of 302 Division I teams -- are excited to compete on their home track, and hope to use their knowledge of the layout to their advantage.
"The course is in great shape," said senior Steven Ihm. "The greens are a little firm and it has been windy the last couple of days, but that is the way Finkbine plays sometimes. It is a big advantage for us knowing where some of the pins may be ahead of time because they have been there in years past. We have the experience of the course and knowledge that will help us throughout the tournament."
"This is my fourth year (playing at Finkbine) so I have fairly extensive knowledge," said redshirt junior Ian Vandersee. "We play it all the time and that is huge, but you still have to execute the shot. We have a better idea of where to hit them and where not to hit them and whether you execute is what brings the rest of the field into play as well."
The 54-hole tournament will begin Saturday with a shotgun start at 9 a.m. (CT). Participants will play 36 holes Saturday and 18 holes Sunday. Sunday's final round is also slated to begin at 9 a.m.
The 12-team field includes Big Ten teams Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin, and Denver, DePaul, Iowa State, Kansas, Marquette, Northern Illinois, and Washington State.
"This is a nice 12-team field, and we have eight good players with a lot of depth," said UI head coach Mark Hankins. "I'm honestly not sure how it's going to go individually, but hopefully our overall team depth and experience on this golf course will help us finish toward the top.
"At the end of the day, all eight guys are going to go out individually and try to attain some personal goals. If they do, we'll be in great shape team-wise."
Iowa heads into the Invitational with plenty of momentum coming off of a runner-up finish in the 15-team field at the Arizona State University Thunderbird Invitational (March 21-23) behind a career-best effort from junior Brian Bullington. The Frankfort, Ill., native carded a 54-hole score of 206 (-7), the best of his career. Bullington finished third individually en route to being named the Big Ten Golfer of the Week.
"Feels like a lifetime ago," said Hankins. "It was two and a half weeks ago, totally different conditions, and it has been nice to get some practice in at Finkbine."
This year marks the 21st Hawkeye Invitational. Iowa has won 13 titles and crowned 13 individual champions. Kansas defeated Iowa by one stroke last year after the Hawkeyes won three-straight from 2010-12.
"I've been preparing just like any other tournament," said Ihm, who shared medalist honors last year. "I have been trying to hit some balls this week and working on the speed of the greens. It has been nice that Finkbine opened last week so we were able to get out on the course and do some qualifying this weekend. I'm looking forward to it; it should be a fun event."
Admission to this weekend's Invitational is free, and fans are encouraged to register to win a round of golf at Finkbine for two with a cart. Live scoring will be available at golfstat.com.