When the Iowa men’s golf team got through regional competition to make it to the NCAA finals in 2009, words like surprised and overachieving best described the accomplishment.
Two years later, expectation is the new buzz word circulating around coach Mark Hankins’ team entering today’s NCAA Indiana Regional at Wolf Run Golf Club in Zionsville, Ind.
Iowa is seeded third in the 54-hole, 14-team competition. The low five teams at the conclusion of play Saturday advance to the NCAA finals May 31-June 5 at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla.
“We know we can’t just show up and make it through,” Hankins said. “We’ve got to come ready to play and shoot consistent numbers.”
Hankins left Michigan State to take over an Iowa program ranked 155th in the nation in 2008. The top 25 was still a pipe dream when the Hawkeyes pulled off their 2009 surprise by making it through NCAA regionals.
That 2009 team included Vince India, Brad Hopfinger, Barrett Kelpin and Chris Brant. All four are still on a Hawkeye team that is ranked 18th nationally by Golfstat and Golfweek entering the regional. They’ll be joined by Jed Dirksen, a quarterfinalist in the 2010 U.S. Amateur who beat out Brad George in qualifying this week.
India, who was named Big Ten Conference player of the year this spring, and Hopfinger are seniors. India also won the Les Bolstad Award for having the lowest Big Ten stroke average, 71.08. That is a school record.
India and Hopfinger both earned first-team all-Big Ten honors. Brant, a junior and runner-up medalist in the Big Ten tournament, was a second-team pick.
Iowa, making its third consecutive NCAA regional appearance, has earned its expectations. The Hawkeyes have won five tournaments this season and were third at the Big Ten event.
The Indiana Regional, one of six across the country, includes third-ranked Alabama, No. 11 Illinois, No. 21 Stanford and No. 26 Wake Forest.
“I can tell you that our region is as deep, probably the deepest, of any in the country,” Hankins said. “North Carolina-Charlotte won their conference, finished second to us in our home tournament, on our home track (Finkbine), and they’re seeded 10th in our region.”