Men’s golf team heads to Phoenix for Big Four Match

Alex Gookin

The ISU men’s golf team gets a change of pace Feb. 16 when it plays for state bragging rights at the annual Big Four Match in Phoenix.

The one-day tournament features Iowa’s four major golf programs — Iowa State, Iowa, Northern Iowa and Drake — in a meet that will not count toward the team record, but provides good practice for the rest of the season.

“It’s more of an exhibition,” said head coach Andrew Tank. “It’s sort of more about bragging rights within the state. Playing in Arizona in February gives all four schools a chance to play in good weather early in the spring.”

The first round matchups are seeded based on the team’s final fall rankings. This year’s event will feature No. 1 Iowa vs No. 4 Drake and No. 2 Iowa State vs. No. 3 Northern Iowa.

Each team will place six golfers in head-to-head stroke-play matches, with each match worth one point. A team can earn a maximum score of six points. The teams that win the first round advance to the finals and the losers play in the consolation round.

The tournament provides a unique setting that Tank hopes to use to his advantage.

“As a coach, it’s going to help me figure out where we need to go as we get ready for Palm Springs,” Tank said. “It will also help me determine the lineup … since we will have six guys playing in the Big Four Match but only four in Palm Springs.”

The players can also use this tournament as an opportunity to improve their game.

“You can take chances in this tournament and make some corrections in your game,” said sophomore Scott Fernandez, the team’s No. 1 golfer.

Although the tournament will not count in standings or overall records, the team is treating this as a competitive match.

“It’s still serious and everybody is still trying to beat each other,” Tank said. “It’s pretty competitive because of the rivalries within the state.”

Fernandez also mentioned the difference in atmosphere when playing against in-state rivals in an exhibition match.

“You can express yourself a little more. If you make a birdie you can go a little crazy,” Fernandez said. “It’s always exciting to try to beat the other guys — the Hawkeyes, especially.”