Men's Golf Seeks 6th-Straight NCAA Bid
Sep 9, 2013
By ERIC CLARK
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Since taking command of the University of Iowa men's golf program in 2007, head coach Mark Hankins has established the Hawkeyes as a competitive force in collegiate golf. Iowa has advanced to NCAA Regionals each of the past five seasons, and has advanced to the NCAA Finals three of the last five seasons.
Heading into the 2013-14 season the Hawkeyes will be experienced with seven returning players back from a team that won the Boilermaker Invitational and placed third at the Big Ten Championships. Iowa also added two freshmen, giving Hankins a deep squad.
"Our players are going to be looking around at each other knowing that anyone could beat them any given week," Hankins said. "It provides motivation because you can't take a week off. It's going to be extremely intense, and the competition within the squad is going to be high."
The roster is highlighted by five returning letterwinners, including senior Steven Ihm, who posted the lowest scoring-average for the Hawkeyes (72.28) last season. The Peosta, Iowa, native built off a strong junior season by posting several successful outings over the summer of 2013, including winning the 60th Annual Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament in Johnstown, Pa., and playing in his first-ever PGA TOUR event in the John Deere Classic.
"Steven is coming in with a lot of expectations and hype," Hankins said. "He still has some unfinished goals from last year. He was very close to being Big Ten Player of the Year, finishing second in the rankings. He'll be the highest ranked returner in the conference."
Ihm shared medalist honors at the Boilermaker Invitational and the Hawkeye/Great River Entertainment Invitational last season, garnering All-Big Ten and all-region honors. He is currently ranked No. 39 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
Junior Brian Bullington finished last season with three straight finishes in the top-24, and posted a 73.92 stroke average during the spring. Bullington was the mark of consistency for the Hawkeyes, holding the fourth-lowest scoring average (74.60) and tying for the team-high total in regular season rounds played (28). The Frankfort, Ill., native placed 21st place in the Hawkeye/Great River Entertainment Invitational in the spring of 2013.
"Brian showed a lot of promise last year, and was one of our most consistent players in the spring," Hankins said. "We have a lot of expectations for Brian, and he has put in a lot of hard work. He's looking forward to his junior year, and feels like he could be the No. 1 guy on this team."
Senior Ryan Marks will look to close out his Hawkeye career with a consistent and complete season after playing in six tournaments last year. He tied for 31st at the Golfweek Conference Challenge.
"Ryan wants to be a professional golfer, and he is determined to have a solid year and contribute by not only making the traveling squad, but by competing for championships," Hankins said. "He needs to accept his role as a senior, do things the right way, and believe that is going to produce his desired results."
Ian Vandersee enters his junior season after a sophomore campaign in which he shot a team and season-low 18-hole score of 65 at the Baylor Intercollegiate, an event that he won. He also tied for 11th place at the Hawkeye/Great River Entertainment Invitational.
"For Ian, this season is about continuing to gain confidence and consistency," Hankins said. "He had flashes of greatness (last season). He was our best player at the Baylor Invitational, and he has the talent and motivation to be a top player for us."
Junior Joseph Winslow shot even par or better twice as a sophomore, tying for fourth place at the Boilermaker Invitational, and fifth place at the Big Ten Championships. Winslow was named to the Division I PING All-Midwest Regional Team and was a second team All-Big Ten selection.
"(Joe) played a lot of golf this summer, and he continues to get stronger physically and with his mental game," Hankins said. "It's his junior year, and he's going to be focused on being competitive for that No. 1 spot."
Nate Yankovich played in five events as a true freshman, and enters his sophomore season feeling confident and comfortable with the system. He earned his first career top-20 finish at the Hawkeye/Great River Entertainment Invitational, and tied for 37th at the Big Ten Championships.
"Nate had a nice spring, and helped propel us into the NCAAs," Hankins said. "He improved over the summer, and is still growing and maturing. Now it's going to be a matter of taking on new goals and a new role."
Sophomore Voramate Aussarassakorn enters the 2013-14 campaign after a strong summer back home in Thailand, in which he won the True Vision Amateur Championship, A-Class Amateur Championship, and the July Thailand Sport Hero event.
"Voramate came in pretty highly-decorated (as a freshman)," Hankins said. "After one full year here, he's much more adept on what he's supposed to be doing, where he's supposed to go, and what our system is going to entail. He played well this summer and will look to make an impact."
The Hawkeyes incoming class consists of two juniors who both ranked No. 1 in their respective home states' junior golf rankings for the class of 2013.
Raymond Knoll, a native of Naperville, Ill., and product of Naperville North High School, won the 2012 Illinois Junior Amateur, the MAJGT Windy City Open, the PJGT John Deere Classic, and qualified for the 2012 U.S. Junior Amateur after winning the Illinois qualifier.
"Ray is an experienced junior," said Hankins. "He has played all over the country, and in the biggest junior tournaments. He is very comfortable in the college setting, and we're excited to see what he can do."
Carson Schaake hails from Omaha, Neb., where he attended Creighton Prep. Schaake won the Nebraska Class A State High School Championship in 2012, placed second in the PGA Junior Series at Arbor Links, fifth in the Nebraska Men's Amateur, and qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur after winning the Nebraska qualifier.
"Carson is a really competitive kid," Hankins said. "He had success in the state of Nebraska this summer and has plenty of talent to adjust to college golf.
"Both of these guys will feel nerves in qualifying, but that's why we'll have a lot of competition within the squad. We've got nine good players, and every one of those guys want to play."
The Hawkeyes' 2013-14 schedule is nearly identical to the 2012-13 slate, with the only differences coming in the addition the Windon Invitational in Chicago and the ASU Thunderbird Invitational in Tempe, Ariz. The Hawkeyes will defend their tournament title at the Boilermaker Invitational on April 19-20.
Hankins says his team will be comfortable in tournaments they have already experienced.
"Our travel arrangements are set, we know when we need to get there, where to stay, and what to do," he said. "There's a lot less distractions. We're comfortable going back to places we've been because we understand the level of competition, and what we're going to have to play up to."
While Iowa's schedule may be familiar to Hankins and his golfers, the difficulty level still remains high.
"It's a highly competitive schedule, and the last couple years, it has been the top schedule in the Big Ten," Hankins said. "We have more experience this year, but we need to have the discipline to do the work day-by-day. We've got nine guys that all want to play No. 1, and whoever qualifies low is going to play it.
"It's a brand new year, a brand new slate. If we play up to our potential, continue to improve and fight for every stroke, well make our sixth-straight trip to the NCAA's."