ISU men’s golf postseason run ends in a 25th-place finish at nationals


Former ISU golfer Zach Steffen, left, competed in the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic on July 9 and 10. With a 36-hole total of 153 (75+78), Steffen missed the cut by 15 strokes.

Mike Randleman

After a deep postseason run that garnered national attention, the season for the underdog ISU men’s golf team came to a close May 26 at the NCAA Championship.

Entering the event as the lowest-ranked team in the field, No. 47 Iowa State jumped out to the lead partway through the first round, but it came back down to earth as the wind howled at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.

At tournament’s end, the Cyclones finished in 25th place out of 30 teams with a 54-hole total of 31-over-par 871.

“I’d say overall it was disappointing. I feel like we didn’t play our best. We probably played below average, even,” said ISU coach Andrew Tank. “So that was a bit disappointing when we’ve been building some momentum and played so well at regionals.”

At the regional tournament in Columbia, Mo., Iowa State surged on the final day, posting the lowest round in program history and catapulting itself into nationals, even as its second-leading scorer Nick Voke was sidelined with an injury.

After a two-under-par total of 278 in the first round, the Cyclones appeared destined to continue their magic, but inclement weather, as well as the pressure of trying to land inside the top eight to advance to match play, proved to be too much to handle.

The Cyclones followed up the first round with inflated rounds of 299 and 294 to finish at 871 for the tournament, 26 shots back of a spot in the top eight.

“It was just a tough week and a tough course. We’re playing against the best teams in the country, so you have to perform,” said junior Sam Daley, who led the team by tying for 55th place individually. “We didn’t really perform that well. We had moments of brilliance, but it just wasn’t consistent.”

Despite the struggles to which Tank alluded, he recognized that making an appearance at nationals after a 61-year drought is an accomplishment in its own right.

“We definitely got some great experience in seeing what the NCAA Championship is all about. Having two freshmen get that experience, there’s a lot of positives,” Tank said. “Once the frustrations of these last couple days get past us, we’ll definitely look back and see how far forward the program has come.”

With no seniors in the starting lineup, Iowa State will return every starter next season and will add one of Spain’s top amateurs, Jorge Utrilla.

After the Cyclones soaked up the spotlight as an underdog, junior Scott Fernandez hopes a spot at nationals next year will not come as such a surprise.

“We didn’t have a lot to lose [this year] as an underdog. We have to get that [mindset] out of the way,” said Fernandez, who posted the second-best ISU finish at nationals by tying for 82nd place. “We have the same talent as the other teams.

“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.”