Hawkeyes savor spot in tournament


Welcome, NCAA golfers. No, it's not true what they say about Toledo: that if it isn't drizzling then the wind is howling and that if and when the dark clouds lumber off and the sun peaks through for six or seven minutes - a couple hours before we revert to the evening wind chill factor - that the humidity goes through the roof and Inverness Club's soggy rough spurts up and lays sideways.

No, it's not true. We have beautiful weather around here. June 23rd is particularly nice. We wear shorts that day. No, it's not true what you've heard. But you'll be convinced it is by the end of the week.

Of course, if you're the Iowa Hawkeyes, you could not care less. Neither wind nor rain nor sleet nor hail stones the size of, well, golf balls is about to ruin this magical trip to the NCAA tournament.

Iowa is not one of your traditional college golf powers. This is its second trip to the national tournament since 1960 and this season's berth in the regional tournament was the school's first since '95. Two years ago, the Hawkeyes were ranked No. 152 in the country. They were the lowest-seeded of 30 teams as the 2008-09 NCAA men's championship began yesterday. OK, you get the drift.

But change is afoot. No, the Hawkeyes don't have a great shot at winning the title this week at Inverness. But they're about to stop keeping track of NCAA appearances by the decade.

A team with two freshmen and two sophomores on this week's five-man roster did pretty well yesterday despite going off early under soggy, chilly conditions. The Hawkeyes were 17 over par. Plenty of good teams did worse.

Iowa's players don't pay much attention to scores and standings, according to second-year coach Mark Hankins.

"We try to keep expectations low because they create pressure," he said. "We want to be well prepared mentally on the first tee and grind it out until the last putt on the last hole. We worry about the things we can control that help us stay consistent."

Some of Hankins' players spoke about getting it done this week. After all, it is senior Cole Peevler's first, last and only NCAA chance. You'd expect no other sentiment. But freshman Barrett Kelpin struck the right chord when saying, "Now that we're here we're going to want it even more in years to come. I can only see us getting better."

Iowa is one of five Big Ten teams in the field and all were clustered within seven shots yesterday with Ohio State, seeking a memorable final chapter for retiring coach Jim Brown, leading the league contingent at 10-over 294. Michigan was next at 12-over.

What would sports in northwest Ohio be without Ohio State and Michigan influences?

The Hawkeyes, though, would love to steal their thunder; if not now, soon.

"Hopefully, there will be three more NCAAs in my future," said freshman Chris Brant.

Hankins, who previously coached Michigan State to a pair of Big Ten titles and five trips to the NCAA, smiles when he hears that kind of talk.

"We realize the opportunity we have here," he said. "I've been to this event with three different schools. I can tell you it's no small feat. There are 300-some teams and 30 get here. I like that those freshmen and sophomores think we should regularly be one of the 30."

Yes, change is afoot. As for the weather