Cyclone men’s golf ready for challenge of NCAA Championships after rapid rise

Member of the Iowa State Golf Team Practices May 22 at the ISU Golf Facilities.

Noah Rohlfing

They’ve been here before. Three times in five years, in fact. This year, though, the Iowa State men’s golf team’s path to the NCAA Championships was different.

That’s partly because they were not playing well for much of the season. They didn’t really expect to make it this far. To be honest, not many expected the Cyclones to do so after their poor start.

The Cyclones have risen from being ranked 88th in the country by in early February to No. 47 in the website’s most recent rankings, a rise not often seen in collegiate golf, especially not from a upper-Midwestern program that couldn’t practice outside regularly for much of the season. 

In fact, Iowa State is one of the few northern programs to have made the NCAA Championships three times in the past five seasons, joining Oregon (who won the national title in 2016) and Illinois, who has appeared in 11-straight NCAA Championships.

Head coach Andrew Tank was thrilled with his team’s fight.

“We’re just really pumped to get the opportunity to play again,” Tank said. “We’ve had times this year where we’ve probably played tight.

“The guys are doing a really good job of understanding that they just need to go out and play and be themselves.”

Sophomore Sam Vincent and senior Denzel Ieremia have been two of the team’s catalysts during their rise up the standings. 

Vincent has averaged 70.7 shots per round over the last seven, best on the team. 

The two New Zealanders finished in the top-10 on the individual leaderboard in the Stockton Regional as the Cyclones finished in third place, three shots behind regional winners Kansas and 10 ahead of the qualifying cutoff. It tied for the highest regional finish in team history. 

Vincent is happy to be contributing and playing some of his best golf at the right time.

“It’s very different from what was going on previously,” Vincent said. “It’s been really cool, more than anything.”

Ieremia is heading to his second-straight NCAA Championships in his senior season with momentum on his side. He finished eighth at the Stockton Regional.

The course that the Cyclones will play on, however, is new to every member of the team. 

Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma, is the home course of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, a national power that has produced star professionals such as Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Scott Verplank. Predictably, the course is not one to be scoffed at. 

Ieremia said that the Cyclones do have a source of knowledge on the course, though: former Cyclone Nick Voke. 

Voke, who is currently playing professionally on the Korean Tour, qualified for the NCAA Championships as an individual in 2016 and has been providing Ieremia and the rest of the Cyclones with tips on how to handle the 7,449 yard course.

Ieremia and Vincent said that Voke sees areas where Iowa State can attack the course.

“He said it’s important to hit it in the fairway,” Ieremia said. “When the wind gets up it’s pretty tough.”

“Visually, it’s very stimulating,” Vincent said of the course’s layout.

Tank added that the course has really thick rough but that the Cyclones have been able to prepare well due to the thick rough at their outdoor practice facility.

Ieremia and Tank both emphasized that the Cyclones have to keep loose heading into Friday’s first round in order to perform their best as a team. 

“They’re relaxed, they’re having fun,” Tank said. “I think that’s about understanding the big picture and having the right perspective.”

The Cyclones will tee off on Friday morning starting at 8:50 a.m. in groups with Augusta State and Central Florida, with coverage on the Golf Channel of the Individual Championship starting on Monday at 3 p.m.

Coming in as longshots, just like they have been all season, the Cyclones are seeking one more surprise showing in Stillwater.