ISU men’s golf hopes to get off to faster start at Badger Invitational

Mike Randleman

The ISU men’s golf team has been knocking at the door of victory for months.

With six runner-up finishes in 14 events dating back to last season, including last week’s Virginia Commonwealth Shootout, the Cyclones could have felt down on their luck for all the near misses.

Instead, head coach Andrew Tank has instilled in his team the importance of gradual improvement and letting the chips fall where they may in regards to where they finish on the leaderboard.

“This is my fifth year, I know we’ve had a lot [of runner-up finishes] in the years I’ve been here,” Tank said. “It’s just a matter of time before we break through as a team, but for me I’m more focused on how the guys are doing individually. If they can just keep getting better and focus on where we’ll be at for the postseason.” 

That mindset of steady progress culminated in the Cyclones playing their best golf during last season’s postseason run to a 25th-place finish at the NCAA Championship, even without the cherry on top of winning a tournament.

In its season debut last week in Virginia, Iowa State seemed to pick up where it left off from last year, finishing only behind defending champion Virginia Tech. Sophomore Nick Voke also earned individual medalist honors, the first Cyclone to do so since current senior Scott Fernandez earned co-medalist honors at the Furman Intercollegiate two seasons ago.

With a quick turnaround from the completion of the VCU Shootout on Sept. 23 and the beginning of the Badger Invitational on Sept. 28, the team hopes it can keep the momentum going from a finish that featured three Cyclones in the top 20.

“I think it’s good that it’s a short turnaround because we’re in the momentum of the tournament mindset,” Fernandez said. “We’ve just got a couple days to shape up a couple of things, but nothing too technical. We don’t lose the rhythm of playing or the routine.”

Along with the rhythm Iowa State hopes to carry over, its chances of breaking through for a win this week in Madison, Wis., are aided by its superiority over the field.

According to the final 2013-2014 Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, Iowa State is the only top-100 team featured in the 14-team field and the only team that advanced to last year’s 30-team NCAA Championship.

Despite heading to Wisconsin as one of the favorites to win, Tank remained steadfast in prioritizing his desire to see his players improve over yearning for a win.

“I think we always expect a good finish, the guys are confident in their abilities,” Tank said. “I think it’s more just working on these guys taking care of their business in what they need to do to get better. It’d be great to get a win as a team, but that’s probably not our primary focus at this point.”

One focus that is on the team’s radar is getting off to faster starts. Dating back to last season, in eight of 14 tournaments Iowa State’s worst round has come in the first round.

The Cyclones have shown resiliency by finishing in the upper-half of the leaderboard in all but two of 14 tournaments, but their inability to post low scores from wire-to-wire has kept them out of the winner’s circle.

“I think because we have so much last round success, I think that’s pretty strong because it says we’re a strong underdog, so I think it’s probably stressful for other teams to see us right behind them,” said sophomore Jack Carter. “But we want to get out there and throw punches the whole tournament.”

Iowa State’s starting lineup for the Badger Invitational will be the same that competed at the VCU Shootout last week. Sophomores Ruben Sondjaja and Nick Voke, redshirt junior Collin Foster and seniors Sam Daley and Scott Fernandez will get the nod. Sophomore Jack Carter will compete as an individual, which means that his scores will not count towards team scoring.