One chance to see great golf
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Fans of the University of Iowa baseball and softball teams have almost 40 combined opportunities to watch their favorite teams compete on campus in Iowa City in the spring. The Hawkeye men’s golf team has one chance to show their fans what they can do on the course.
Head coach Mark Hankins and the UI men’s golf team hosts the Hawkeye-Great River Entertainment Invitational on Saturday and Sunday, April 12 and 13, at Finkbine Golf Course in Iowa City, the only home event for the team during the spring season. The annual event is the one chance for the Hawkeyes to display their talents on campus and in the community.
“This gives us an opportunity to promote our program,” Hankins says. “We don’t have a conference schedule or multiple home events. We have one home event in the spring.”
Hankins has built the UI men’s golf program into a perennial power, consistently holding a top-50 ranking (out of approximately 300 Division I teams) while competing amongst the nation’s elite on a regular basis. Iowa has captured 11 team tournament titles since 2008 and had 12 individual medalists since 2009. Iowa golfers are now regulars on the All-Big Ten teams and All-American honors have become almost a yearly tradition.
This weekend is the only chance for golf fans in the area to see the likes of senior Steven Ihm, who won the prestigious Sunnehanna Amateur and earned a sponsor’s exemption into the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic last summer, or junior Ian Vandersee, who owns numerous school records and is one of the top amateur golfers in the state.
Both golfers circle this event on their calendars every season, knowing it’s their only chance to play in front of a home crowd.
“I’m looking forward to playing in front of a crowd and it’s nice to get the opportunity to do that,” Vandersee says. “We have a different level of excitement this week that’s not usually there, because we get to play at home only once a year.”
“It’s great playing at Finkbine and hosting this tournament,” Ihm says. “This is our only chance to show the community what Iowa golf is about. We want to show people that their support means a lot to us.”
Vandersee (West Des Moines) and Ihm (Peosta) are both Iowa natives and take great pride in representing the UI on the course.
“I grew up a huge Hawkeye fan,” Vandersee says. “The opportunity to play at the University of Iowa and live this experience is awesome. I’m extremely proud to wear the Tigerhawk and represent my school.”
Ihm was able to show his Hawkeye pride while competing on some of golf’s biggest stages last year, winning the Sunnehanna Amateur and playing on the PGA Tour.
“I wore a Tigerhawk at every event I played last summer,” Ihm says. “Being from Iowa, I take a lot of pride in this university.”
The Hawkeye-Great River Entertainment Invitational begins on Saturday with 36-holes play, starting at 9 a.m. with a shotgun start. Sunday’s final round of 18 holes begins with a shotgun start at 9 a.m.
“Our guys can go out and literally show the community that we have a college golf program here at Iowa,” Hankins says. “Finkbine is in great shape and hopefully we get some good weather. This weekend is a great chance to showcase this golf course and our program.”