Sept. 13, 2013
The University of Iowa men's golf team begins regular season play this weekend, hosting the annual Golfweek Conference Challenge on Sept. 15-17 in Burlington, Iowa. The tournament will be held at Spirit Hollow Golf Course, a neutral site, for the fourth consecutive season. The first round will begin on Sunday at 9 a.m, with the second round beginning at 9 a.m. on Monday. Tuesday's final round will begin via a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m., and the Golfweek Awards Ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. Teams will play 18 holes each day, and 54 total.
Fifteen teams will represent fifteen conferences in the Golfweek Conference Challenge. Arizona (Pac-12), New Mexico (MWC), Central Arkansas (Southland), Oklahoma (Big 12), Iowa (Big Ten), Texas State (Sun Belt), Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun), Houston (American), Jacksonville State (OVC), UT Chattanooga (So-Con), Virginia Tech (ACC), Louisiana Tech (C-USA), LSU (SEC), Ball State (MAC), and Winthrop (Big South) make up the field.
Senior Steven Ihm, freshman Raymond Knoll, sophomores Nate Yankovich and Voramate Aussarassakorn and senior Ryan Marks make up the lineup for Iowa this weekend. Ihm played every round of the past season. Knoll is playing in his first collegiate event.
The 18-hole "Spirit Hollow" course at the Spirit Hollow Golf Course facility was ranked the No. 1 golf course in the state of Iowa in 2012. With 7,360 yards of golf from the tips, this par 72 has a course rating of 73.1 with a slope rating of 134 on Bent grass. Spirit Hollow opened in 2000 and was designed by Richard Jacobson (ASGCA). Spirit Hollow has played host to the 2007 U.S. Amateur qualifier, the 2009 Iowa Senior Amateur Championship, the 2010 U.S. Open Qualifier, the 2011 Iowa Match-Play Championship and the 2012 Iowa Amateur Championship. Spirit Hollow has served as the host of the Golfweek Conference Challenge since 2010.
FIVE STRAIGHT NCAA APPEARANCES
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.
IHM WINS SUNNEHANNA AMATEUR
Senior Steven Ihm joined elite company as he won the 60th Annual Sunnehanna Amateur on June 16th. PGA TOUR professionals such as Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson, and Lucas Glover won the same event early in their careers. The Peosta, Iowa, native shot a eight-under par (272) for the four-round tournament, winning by two strokes over Cory Whitsett of Alabama. A month later, Ihm earned a sponsor's exemption to the John Deere Classic, making his first career PGA TOUR appearance. The senior birdied his first hole of the tournament, and is believed to be the first UI golfer to earn a sponsor's exemption to the Silvis, Ill. tournament.
THREE HAWKEYES TO WATCH
Senior Steven Ihm and juniors Brian Bullington and Joseph Winslow were named to the 2013-14 Big Ten Men's Golfers to Watch List. Ihm, currently 46th in the Men's World Amateur Golf rankings, had the lowest scoring average (71.4) for the Hawkeyes during the spring season, playing nine rounds at or below par. The Peosta, Iowa, native played in his first PGA TOUR event over the summer after earning a sponsor's exemption to the John Deere Classic. Bullington, a native of Frankfort, Ill., finished the 2013 regular season with three-straight top-24 finishes, compiling a 73.92 spring stroke average. Winslow was a second team All-Big Ten selection, a PING All-Midwest Region honoree, and was named to the All-Big Ten Championship Team in 2013 as a sophomore. His 73.48 stroke average ranked 10th best in program history.
DEFENDING THE HARDWARE
Iowa captured two tournament titles lin 2013, and will return to both venues to defend their championships this season. The Hawkeyes won the Big Four Championships in Chandler, Ariz., last February, with five players going 2-0 in match play. Iowa beat Drake, 6-0, in the first round and defeated Iowa State, 5-1, in the final round to take the title. Iowa's second title came at the Boilermaker Invitational in West Lafayette, Ind., tying for first-place out of 18 teams. Senior Steven Ihm earned co-medalist honors just one week after medaling at the Hawkeye-Great River Entertainment Invitational in Iowa City, Iowa.
In the three years that Spirit Hollow Golf Course has hosted the Golfweek Conference Challenge, the Hawkeyes have finished in the top half of the field each time. In 2012, Iowa earned a fourth-place finish behind a second-place finish from Steven Ihm and a 15th-place finish from Joseph Winslow. The Hawkeyes took sixth place in 2011, with then-senior Chris Brant leading Iowa with a 13th-place finish. Steven Ihm finished 22nd, and Ian Vandersee tied for 28th place. Iowa took the tournament title in 2010, as Chris Brant and Vince India took co-medalist titles, leading the Hawkeyes to a 15-stroke victory over North Carolina State.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
The Hawkeyes had the 37th-ranked strength of schedule in the nation in 2013, according to Golfweek.com. This year's schedule is nearly identical to the 2013 slate, with the only changes coming in the addition of the Windon Memorial Classic (hosted by Northwestern) in Lake Forest, Ill., and the ASU Thunderbird Classic (hosted by Arizona State) in Tempe, Ariz.
A PROGRAM ON THE RISE
Iowa has won eleven tournaments since 2008, had twelve individual medalists since 2009 and has had three All-Americans since 2008. Last season, senior Steven Ihm and junior Joseph Winslow became the 11th and 12th Iowa players to be named to the all-regional team since 2009.
HEAD COACH Mark Hankins
Head coach Mark Hankins is in his seventh season as head coach. He has guided the Hawkeyes to five straight NCAA Regional appearances, and to the NCAA Championships three times in the past five years. Iowa was ranked 155th when Hankins took over the program in 2008, yet the Hawkeyes have been consistently ranked within the top-60 for the past three years. Hankins is a native of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.