Men’s golf team builds on past season: Confidence for 2014 team stems from postseason run


Jen Hao Wong/Iowa State Daily

Ruben Sondjaja hits the ball during practice at the team’s practice facility.

Mike Randleman

Whether players or coaches will admit it or not, last year’s success for the ISU men’s golf team was not supposed to happen. At least not yet.

With a starting lineup that regularly trotted out two juniors, a redshirt sophomore and two freshmen, the 2013-14 season could have easily been regarded as a developmental year. A trip to the NCAA regionals was all many expected out of Iowa State, leaving the aristocracy of southern schools to battle for a national championship.

Instead, the team reached its goal of advancing past NCAA regionals a year earlier than many predicted. By advancing to the NCAA Finals for the first time in nearly 60 years, the bar has been raised for the Cyclones this season.

Last year’s top six contributors are returning for the 2014-15 season.

“Expectations are very high, to be honest. I think our team is looking really good,” said sophomore Ruben Sondjaja, who posted four top-10 finishes in his freshman campaign. “We’ve got awesome team dynamics just from our finish last year in the postseason. Even though we didn’t do as well as we hoped to, we’ve got lots of confidence.”

Though the Cyclones entered last year’s NCAA Finals at Prairie Dunes as the lowest-ranked team in the field, their 25th-place finish left them striving for more this year.

“We didn’t have a lot to lose as an underdog. We have to get that [mindset] out of the way. We have the same talent as the other teams,” said senior Scott Fernandez after the NCAA Finals in May. “We saw it on TV — ‘Oh these guys are a Cinderella story.’ We have to get that out of the way and tell ourselves we’re at the same level as those other guys and just go for it.”

As Iowa State tries to continue its momentum from the spring and move away from being a Cinderella story, the team will not have many opportunities to do so in the fall season.

The Cyclones will not compete until Sept. 22 at the VCU Shootout, one of just three fall tournaments. By Sept. 22 last year, they had competed in three tournaments by that point and still had two to go.

This year, with a back-loaded schedule, the team will have more tournaments in preparation for the spring postseason. Also, the light fall schedule allows for players to compete internationally without missing college competition, a scenario that occurred last year when freshman Nick Voke missed the Bridgestone Golf Collegiate in October to instead compete at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in China.

“I think [coach Andrew Tank] did this as a safety blanket, because it was looking for a while like a few of us could have been away. I haven’t really heard too much about it anymore,” Sondjaja said. “I don’t think we did as well as we would’ve liked to individually this summer to be selected for those international teams, but I think that was on the mind of coach when he was making the schedule for us.”

Beginning with the VCU Shootout, Iowa State’s fall schedule will consist of three tournaments in consecutive weeks before resuming in January for the spring portion of the season.