July 11, 2014
SILVIS, Ill. -- With 214 yards to the hole on his final approach of the day, former Hawkeye Steven Ihm knew he needed one more good shot to make the cut in his professional debut.
"It was awesome," said Ihm. "I don't think I've been more nervous over a second shot in my life, but I absolutely flushed it. It was probably one of the best shots I hit all day."
The former three-time All-Big Ten selection knocked his final approach of the day square in the middle of the green, two-putted, and waived to the John Deere Classic crowd.
"I felt good and I was in the moment on the front nine," said Ihm. "I finally made a few putts, which makes a difference."
Ihm got the ball rolling on No. 18, his ninth hole of the second round.
"The second shot on 18, I don't think anybody knows how good that was," said Ihm. "That probably missed the tree by an inch or two. That putt kind of got things rolling."
Ihm birdied 18, then the first three holes on the front nine. Following a bogey on No. 4, Ihm finished birdie, par, birdie, birdie, par. He birdied 7-of-9 holes before finishing with a par on the last, giving him a 30 on his back nine, and a 65 for the day, one of the lowest rounds of the tournament.
"He has a track record of getting on a roll like that," said UI head coach Mark Hankins. "On 18, that is either the end of the tournament for him, or he makes birdie. He hits a cut around the tree to eight feet... if that goes in the water, his tournament is probably over, but he rolls that in and all the sudden gets on a roll. You can see how the crowd reacts when he gets on a roll; it gets pretty loud out there.
"I am very proud of him."
Ihm's six-under-par 65 puts him at -4 heading into the weekend, with the projected cut at -2 at the conclusion of his round.
"It was an amazing day," said Ihm." If you would have told me coming off of 17, after missing that little four footer for birdie, that I was going to make the cut easily, I must have played pretty well on the front. It was a great nine that last putt was for 29 on the front, which is unbelievable. It was so much fun."
Ihm is enjoying the opportunity to make his pro debut in front of a home crowd and the Hawkeye faithful.
"It was really fun coming down the front nine, even making par putts they were roaring," said the Peosta, Iowa, native. "I'm so glad I could do it in front of a home crowd. It was unbelievable."
In last year's John Deere Classic, Ihm birdied his first hole and posted a 36-hole score of 140 (71, 69, -2), missing the cut by two strokes while competing as an amateur.
He was granted a sponsor's exemption for the second-straight year and is taking full advantage of this opportunity.
"When you get the opportunity, you have to take advantage of it," said Ihm. "Not a lot of guys get to make their pro debut at a PGA TOUR event, so this is obviously the first step in hopefully a long list of cuts that I make. I'm really excited at how I played today and how things are looking for the future. Making the cut is obviously a great step forward for my career."
This is a big step for Ihm, just weeks after he concluded his career in Iowa City, as he moves forward as a professional. First though, he is going to enjoy the weekend, stay in his routine, and work for a solid paycheck.
"You can't get too far ahead of yourself," said Ihm. "You have to take it a shot at a time and try to make some putts."
"I probably won't have pizza again tonight, but it'll be the same otherwise... sit back and relax."
KNOLL MAKES PGA DEBUT: Iowa sophomore Raymond Knoll shot an even-par 71 during the second round of the John Deere Classic and finished +3 in his PGA TOUR debut.