Making his mark: How Andrew Tank has changed Iowa State golf

Iowa State’s head men’s golf coach, Andrew Tank.

Matt Belinson

Out of the many storied athletic programs at Iowa State, men’s golf would seem like a program that would normally lie on the margins of relevance and prominence.

Those who assumed that would have been right about Iowa State men’s golf program from the 1990s to the mid 2000s. The program was producing no postseason runs or top-level talent that garnered any national attention. 

As the mid 2000s moved along, the postseason was becoming a faint memory for the men’s golf program at Iowa State.

The program’s last regional birth came in the late 90s, while an appearance in the NCAA Championships was almost feeling like a dream rather than an attainable goal, with the program not making the championship since the 1950s.

With the lack of progress the program was facing as the late 2000s were coming to a close, something had to change.

That worrying and panic came to a stop in 2010, when Iowa State hired a coach that not only brought a new culture to the men’s golf program but provided his players a mentor that would shape their perspective on golf forever.

His name is Andrew Tank.

Culture Shock

Tank was hired in 2010, having spent eight seasons as an assistant to Brad James on Minnesota’s golf team. Tank helped mentor 10 All-American selections and 16 All-Big Ten picks.

Tank attended the University of Minnesota and played collegiate golf for the Gophers. He played on Minnesota’s golf team for four years and eventually led his team to a 2002 National Championship, where he was named team captain.

With all the experience of playing golf and coaching it, Tank grew more and more intrigued by the idea of becoming a head coach for his own program.

“I always loved learning about coaching and I as I got into it more, I realized it was something I wanted to pursue,” Tank said.

Growing up in Des Moines, Tank was very familiar with Iowa State. Tank applied as soon as the position was open.

Once Tank got to Ames and began to craft the foundation of his program, he knew the process would be slow and would require a lot of time to bring in his first recruiting class.

“There were good players that were here before me,” Tank said. “Once I brought in my first four recruits, we got the ball rolling quickly.”

The ball rolled quickly indeed.

His first recruiting class ranked ninth in the country in the Golfstat Freshman Class Impact Rankings. It included Scott Fernandez (Granada, Spain), Duncan Croudis (Dunedin, New Zealand), and Sam Daley (Wynnum, Australia).

Fernandez finished his career as a Cyclone by being named a second-team All-American.

Tank was thankful for the level of trust his first recruits had in him and what type of program he would build. 

“Some of them came across the world to help me better the program and better themselves,” Tank said.

The trust of the players and traveling across the world didn’t stop with Tank’s first class of recruits, with half of his current roster being from outside the U.S.

One of the members of the 2018-19 roster, Lachlan Barker, Tank stated has created an environment built for the players to thrive. 

Barker, a sophomore from Willunga, Australia, said the culture in Ames is one that is inviting but is very process-oriented.

Barker didn’t know much about Tank before commiting to Iowa State, but knew right away that Tank was going to be a different type of head coach, and he knew before Tank even spoke to him.

“The first thing that stood out to me was his name, ‘coach Tank,'” Barker said. “From where I am from, that name is pretty unique and pretty striking.”

Barker said Tank seemed to care about his players development and who they were as people as the biggest pieces of his approach. Barker said the culture is for the players first and always.

As one of two juniors on the roster, Tripp Kinney has been a part of Tank’s culture longer than most of his teammates and could tell that Tank wanted to create a culture where golf was almost second fiddle to the human side of the players he was bringing to Ames.

“I would say the culture is like a family,” Kinney said. “He brings in people that he knows is going to mesh well and make the atmosphere welcoming for everyone.”

Kinney has six career top-10 finishes under Tank and sees Tank’s attitude and approach to his golfers as a big reason for his success. Kinney said Tank is never one to yell or get angry, which makes everyone on the team relaxed from day to day.

The players in the men’s golf program are not the only ones who understand what type of culture Tank has brought to Ames, including assistant coach Chad Keohane.

Keohane has been alongside Tank since 2014 and said Tank does his research when it comes to what type of players he brings into the program, as a small roster of players requires everyone to mesh.

“We are a small group, so one bad apple can spoil the bunch real quick so there is a lot of digging into the background who they are as people,” Keohane said.

Keohane said Tank only wants players that want to get better and who want to be the driving force behind their own development. Keohane said Tank brings players that are good people above everything else, which creates a calm environment for everyone involved.

Tank has changed far more than the attitudes and the personalities of the players the Cyclones have in the program. He has brought Iowa State back to the postseason, consistently.

Since Tank’s arrival in 2010, he has led Iowa State to three NCAA championship appearances (2014, 2017, 2018), five NCAA Regional Appearances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018), two NCAA Regional Individual Qualifiers (2013- Scott Fernandez; 2016- Nick Voke), 14 individual medalists and nine tournament titles. 

In his second year as the coach, Tank took his team to the 2012 NCAA regional, the program’s first since 1999. Tank has helped a team or an individual in qualifying for NCAA Regional competition in the last seven seasons (Team- 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018; Individual- 2013, 2016).

Tank and the Cyclones ended a 61-year drought by qualifying for the 2014 NCAA Championships, their first appearance at the national meet since 1953.

While getting back to the NCAA Championship in 2014 helped the Cyclones gain recognition on the national stage, it has been Tank’s consistent championship runs that have made ISU an established force in college golf.

Three years after taking Iowa State to its first NCAA championship in over six decades, he again led Iowa State to the national meet in 2017, as the Cyclones tied for 18th, their best finish in the modern era. Then right after that, they made a second straight appearance in 2018 NCAA Championship, tying for 19th.

To put it simply, Tank’s coaching tenure has put Iowa State men’s golf back in the national spotlight and that is just where Tank wants the program to be.

“I’ve always said that I would like to become a top-25 program and gain the ability to sustain that,” Tank said. “We are knocking on the door of that but it is one thing to be in the conversation of being a top 25 program and another thing to cement yourself there and that is what I want to accomplish while I am here.”

In less than 10 years, Tank has taken Iowa State men’s golf from being an after thought, into a dedicated and player driven culture that has put the Cyclones right in the heart of postseason golf. 

More than a coach

In order to build a winning culture like Tank has, respect and trust from his players must exist. 

In his nearly 10 years of coaching for the Cyclones, Tank has brought players from all over the world with completely different experiences and personalities into his program, but no matter where his players have come from, they all agree on one thing — Tank is far from just a golf coach.

Barker experienced firsthand the level of dedication Tank has toward his players when he arrived in the U.S. to head to Ames for the first time. Barker never actually visited Iowa State or saw the facilities but was helped by his coach far more than he expected.

“[Tank] actually picked me and my mom up from the airport, drove us straight to campus, got me sorted out with an ID, showed me around and got me earlier in the dorms than most people are allowed,” Barker said.

Barker said being with Tank has made him understand himself as a person better and how his emotions are affected on a daily basis. Tank has helped him control his emotions and help him understand what in his golf game makes him tick.

Barker said being with Tank has made his passion for golf increase and said being with Tank is something every one of his players would want to do for as long as they can.

Barker made a comparison to two prominent Cyclone athletes that are setting their sites on the professional world — basketball players Talen Horton-Tucker and Lindell Wigginton.

“You know we just heard about Horton-Tucker and Wigginton heading to the NBA, I think if they were under coach Tank’s watch, I don’t think they would be going because of how much he offers you and how much better you will get by staying with him for the long-haul,” Barker said.

Others have felt the impact of being in Tank’s program in how they see the sport itself. 

Barker said Tank’s collegiate experience in the sport makes his insight so much more valuable than other coaches he has had. Tank always brings ‘spot-on’ analysis of what needs to be fixed and what needs to stay the same in everyone’s game, Barker said.

“I have a completely different perspective on golf now that I am over here under coach Tank’s watch,” Barker said.

One of Tank’s most successful recruits, Nick Voke, sees Tank as much more than a coach that will help him improve his swing. Instead, he sees Tank as a person who will be there when you need them most.

Coming from New Zealand, Voke grew up around specific coaches that were only there to improve your golf mechanics and nothing more.

With Tank, he found something totally different.

“In the past in New Zealand, you have a golf coach that you go to because he’ll teach you a golf swing and a putting stroke, but coming over here, coach Tank was more of a father figure,” said Voke.

Voke, a 2017 graduate from Iowa State, racked up 18 career top-10 finishes under Tank and earned All-American honors as a Cyclone.

Voke said Tank is someone he goes to for important decisions in his life, including his professional career.

Voke is currently playing on the tour of the PGA. Voke plays in China and Japan but will always reach out to Tank for advice on his schedule and how much golf he should play in a given month.

“He became a person that turned into something much more than what a ‘coach’ does for you,” Voke said. “He is worth his weight in gold.”

Voke frequently returns to Ames with 2018 graduate Denzel Ieremia to catch up with their former coach and soak up Tank’s personality and warmth. Voke thinks Tank’s biggest mark for his impact beyond the golf course shows in the frequency of former players coming back and visiting.

“I think the biggest indication of how good coach Tank is as people say he is the likes of Denzel, Rem and myself want to back here in Ames,” Voke said. “We want to be at the facility because we understand how powerful it is and what coach Tank has created here.

Smiling is the one description Kinney has for his coach of three years.

Kinney said Tank is never grumpy and always is approachable no matter the situation.

“I’ve never heard coach Tank yell,” Kinney said. “You can definitely tell after a bad event he is not the happiest camper but after the good ones it is great seeing his emotions really come out.”

Kinney among many others see a difference in the type of coach Tank is when it comes to the practice facility in Ames and when it comes to time to compete in tournaments. 

“We actually have a saying for him, we call him ‘Travel Tank,'” Kinney said. “‘Travel Tank’ is completely different from ‘Ames Tank’ because he is so much more upbeat and outgoing, he always has music going in the van and seems to get funnier when we go out, it really helps relax the guys going into a tournament.”

That type of coaching and mentoring is what Kinney appreciates the most from Tank, because as Kinney sees it, it allows the entire team to focus on their game rather than making coach happy.

“He cares about the development of the players, it’s not just a ‘what score are you going to shoot for me’ style and more about building the players up and making them better golfers and people,” Keohane said.

Love for the grind

Out of the many things Tank has passion for when it comes to coaching golf at Iowa State, his players and Tank himself will tell you that practice and preperation are what he sees as the most rewarding parts of golf.

Tank coaches with emphasis in making practice time the focused moments where you create your foundation for your success.

Kinney sees Tank’s focus toward practicing and sharpening your mental health as key in making better golfers out of each of his players.

“When we are in Ames he is more serious and wants you to focus on laying the foundation in practice,” Kinney said. “All the practice he has made me do has done so much for my short game.”

Kinney is the prime example of what Tank wants in his players, someone who loves the grind of practice and someone who enjoys paying attention to the details. 

Tank brings players into the program who see practice as something to take advantage of, rather than another thing to complain about.

“I am looking for players that are hungry to get better, guys that love to compete, guys that I thought would be fun to be around on a regular basis,” Tank said.

His coaching style puts the responsibility of getting better on the player’s shoulders, something Voke remembered clearly from his times in Ames.

Voke said playing for Tank became about the development mindset and thinking day in and day out that working hard is the number one priority.

“It is about playing for what you will become in a few years time,” Voke said. “It’s about doing the hard yards, showing up early in the morning and pushing yourself.”

Voke also recalled Tank sitting each player down individually and asking them a simple question.

“What do you want out of this?”

Voke said Tank would make a list of priorities and goals for each player but would never force the player to do anything. He would put it on each individual to meet their goals.

Voke also said another one of Tank’s mantras when it came to the dedication it would take to improve came around the time Voke was an upperclassmen. 

“It was my junior or senior year and he told us ‘actions reveal priorities,'” Voke said. “If you looked at your week schedule, you would be able to sit down and say ‘you can go somewhere with this’ or ‘that isn’t the right mindset.’ We create our habits and our habits create us.”

Even though Voke left the program two years ago, the mindset and focus on practice hasn’t disappeared from Tank’s coaching practices.

The level of seriousness showed last season, after the Cyclones won their first tournament of the year. 

Barker, a freshman at the time, had just captured his first tournament title as a member of the Cyclones and admitted the team was excited about getting the trophy due to some struggles the team had to overcome in the weeks prior to the event.

Barker said as the team was celebrating and gathered up with each other, Tank called them all together and told the team how he really felt about them winning the tournament.

“He got us all together and he said ‘guys, you see this trophy, it means nothing to me, the hard work you have been doing all year is what I care about,’” Barker said. “I think that really sums him up as a coach, it is about the day-in day-out stuff, the process of golf because he loves that and believes the results will come later.”

Voke offered his opinion on the overall legacy and impact Tank has had on Iowa State and the men’s golf program.

“I think if you look back in 10 years, this will be the moment that people look back on and see that this was the start of when things changed in Ames,” Voke said.