May 15, 2014
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- When the University of Iowa men's golf team opens play in the NCAA Columbia Regional Thursday morning, it will feature a lineup that includes three NCAA tournament veterans and two first year freshman. UI head coach Mark Hankins is confident in his players and likes the balance of his line-up.
Iowa's line-up in the 54-hole regional includes senior Steven Ihm, juniors Ian Vandersee and Brian Bullington and freshmen Ray Knoll and Carson Schaake. Ihm and Vandersee are playing in the postseason for the third-straight year, while Bullington is making his second appearance in the NCAA event.
"We have a nice mix, with one senior, two juniors and two freshmen," said Hankins, who is leading the Hawkeyes in their sixth-straight NCAAA regional. "Ray and Carson are big-time winners, they are used to being in situations like this, and their junior careers were filled with winning. Six-straight years at regionals is not a fluke; we do it through good players, with seniors stepping up and playing well, like Steven has done. I have been impressed with the way each one of these guys prepared in getting themselves ready to go."
Iowa has advanced to the NCAA Championships in three of the last five years, most recently in 2012 when the Hawkeyes advanced through the Georgia regional with Ihm and Vandersee in the line-up. Vandersee led Iowa's charge on the final day two years ago, shooting a season-low round of 66 to help Iowa advance.
"I remember it like it was yesterday," said Vandersee. "I remember having a lot of confidence that week. I had a really good spring to that point. I knew if I stuck to my game plan, If I played the way I play, which is being patient, making sure I am taking advantage of what I can take advantage of and not trying to do anything I couldn't do. I made sure to do that.
"I had been hitting it well but hadn't scored," recalled Vandersee. "I remember saying to myself, if I can get the putts to drop, or hit it a little closer, I'll be in good shape tomorrow. I firmly believed in that and I stuck to it."
Vandersee and the Iowa veterans are confident that Knoll and Schaake will continue their solid spring, which has helped solidify the Iowa line-up.
"I have not taken the time to talk about two years ago, I don't usually talk about things I have done in the past," said Vandersee, in regards to advice for the Hawkeye freshmen. "But, I might remind them this week, you don't have to be an upperclassman to play well. They are very capable of playing well and have both posted some good numbers this year. NCAA regionals is another golf tournament, it isn't anything we haven't done before. "
Knoll agrees with Vandersee and feels prepared for his first postseason event.
"We look forward to these tournaments," said Knoll. "We look to this as a big tournament, but we also look at it like any other tournament; we have played against these teams all year. It's the same as competing in the tournaments we have been in all year. The older guys have been through this in the past and have done well. We have confidence they are going to play well, that takes the pressure off us and lets us play our game."
Schaake agreed with his roommate.
"This is the same as any other week, we need to stay in our groove, and we are in a good groove right now," said Schaake. "The chemistry is great. Personally, any tournament I play in competitively, I want to go in it to win. Our team goes in to tournaments to win as many as possible. We have to stay confident, we have to keep playing our game and doing our thing."
In 2012 the Hawkeyes went on the tie for 22nd at the NCAA Championships, played at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. The Hawkeyes are hoping to be in the top five when the regional concludes Saturday, earning another trip to the finals.
"I didn't know where we were team-wise, I could not have guessed how everyone was playing," said Vandersee, of his final round in Georgia two years ago. "I was our second player to finish, and I sat behind the 18 green and watched the other guys finish. I remember thinking how close it was going to be. Once we finished and realized we were in, it was an awesome feeling."
Hankins feels the spring schedule has prepared his team for a solid showing this weekend, and was glad to see his team assigned to a regional close to home.
"I think it's big to be in the Midwest," said Hankins. "We have played well in windy conditions; we have played well in hot conditions; we have played well on Pete Dye courses. I think we are well-rounded. What we talk about is the ability to adapt once you get there, and this team has done a good job of that. Plus, we have five good players, we are not depending on one guy or two guys, we are relying on five guys, which is very helpful."
The Hawkeyes are the No. 6 seed in the NCAA Columbia Regional. Iowa will play the first round with Arkansas and Arizona State. Live scoring is available at the men's golf schedule page.