ISU men’s golf rides hot final round to first national championship berth in 61 years


Junior Sam Daley practices his putt on Feb. 26 at the golf team’s indoor practice facility.

Mike Randleman

The ISU men’s golf team picked an opportune time to have a great round to get over the hump.

At the NCAA Regional in Columbia, Mo., No. 50 Iowa State jumped from sixth to a tie for fourth place to climb into the top five and earn its first spot at the NCAA National Championship since 1953.

“There’s all kinds of positive emotions going right now; it’s great,” said ISU coach Andrew Tank. “It was our goal at the beginning of the year and to see it happen is something special.”

Throughout the regular season, the Cyclones often lamented on the finishes they could have had, finishing runner-up four times.

They often found strong outings from two or three of the five starters, but they could not reach the lofty goals they set for themselves nor find consistency throughout the lineup.

Though they did not take home the NCAA Regional title, they broke through barriers that made their fourth place finish a victory in its own right.

“It was the best fourth place finish we’ve ever had,” junior Sam Daley said with a laugh.

To get to that spot, Iowa State had hills to climb.

History was not on its side — Iowa State had not made it to nationals since 1953.

Second-leading scorer Nick Voke was sidelined with an injury.

Entering the tournament as the ninth seed, Iowa State was not projected to contend for an advancing spot, especially without Voke in the lineup.

Even entering the final round, Iowa State was on the outside looking in on the top five, three shots behind fifth-place Arizona State.

Needing a strong final round, the Cyclones came through. They posted a program-best 18-under-par total of 270, which tied for the lowest 18-hole total of the tournament and was the best of the final round.

“We’ve been waiting for it all week — all year, really — and we did it today when it counted. It’s fantastic,” Daley, who shot a six-under-par 66 in the final round, said. “We feel like we’ve been close before and it hasn’t really happened. It’s awesome to do it today when we needed it most.”

On a day that will go down in the record books for the team’s accomplishment, Iowa State had notable contributions from its five individuals. All five posted tournament-best rounds, one of which was a career-low round of 68 for redshirt sophomore Collin Foster.

Along with Daley, junior Scott Fernandez posted a 66 to ascend to a tie for sixth place, the best result at NCAA Regionals in program history.

Ruben Sondjaja was the fourth player to go under par, posting a 70 to join Daley in a tie for 17th place for the tournament.

Freshman Jack Carter shaved eight shots off of the 81 he posted in rounds one and two, capping off his tournament with a 73, the second-lowest round of his young career.

Tank was not watching the scoreboard during the round to see if his team’s effort was good enough to climb up the leaderboard, but he had a sense of what his golfers were accomplishing.

“I think there was definitely a good vibe,” Tank said. “I don’t know if anyone really realized where we stood. I wasn’t looking at scores at all today, I didn’t check until Scott was on the 18th green, but I think you could just sense things were going our way.”

Fernandez, who posted his seventh top-10 finish of the season, said he and his teammates had a loose but aggressive attitude entering the round. Being in sixth place, in his mind, freed them up to play aggressively against the teams ahead of them who were more hesitant in their efforts to hang on to a spot in the top five.

“I think we were in a good position to go for it. Starting in sixth, you can come from behind and just go for it,” Fernandez said. “Coach reinforced we have to just go for it, no regrets and no fear.”

With 30 teams convening at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kan., for the national championship May 23, Iowa State will have a quick turnaround to prepare for its final tournament of the year.

However, for Tank and his team, the excitement of achieving their ultimate goal will be enough to push them through.

“We’ll be leaving on Wednesday. It’s a pretty quick turnaround, but we’re just excited to have the opportunity to go compete,” Tank said. “We’d leave tomorrow if we had to. If we had to wait a couple of weeks, we’d do that too. It really doesn’t matter.”