Men’s golf’s season ends in eighth-place finish at NCAA regionals


Richard Martinez/Iowa State Daily

Scott Fernandez, senior from Spain, warms up for practice at Iowa State’s golf performance facility south of campus. The men’s golf team prepared for the Badger Invitational in Madison, Wisconsin, making it the first Big 10 tournament the team will play on the road this season. Iowa State placed second overall with a score of 872, just one stroke behind winners Same Houston State with 871.

Mike Randleman

At day’s beginning, the ISU men’s golf team sat just one shot away from the top five that determined berths to nationals, but frustration was already beginning to mount.

In the first two of three rounds at the Bremerton, Wash., NCAA Regional tournament, No. 43 Iowa State posted a pair of one-under-par rounds of 287.

Its effort placed the Cyclones in sixth place and in a final-round group with the fourth and fifth-place teams it was prepared to battle with for a spot in the top five.

For the seven-seeded team in the field of 14 assembled to compete at The Olympic Course at Gold Mountain, it seemed like Iowa State would be content with its standing.

“In the first two rounds our score was respectable but we weren’t making a lot of birdies, we didn’t have many low rounds,” said ISU coach Andrew Tank.

Tank felt as if his team was not maximizing the most out of its rounds, leaving his team in a position to make up ground instead of sitting comfortably in the top five with 18 holes to go.

Although Iowa State was not firing on all cylinders, it had memories of conquering a much tougher final-round obstacle last season.

In the 2014 NCAA regional, Iowa State surged in the final round to make up three shots and make nationals comfortably, even without the services of No. 2 starter, Nick Voke.

So, with only one shot separating the Cyclones from the top five, a healthy Voke and the belief that all it took was a few holed putts to ignite a rally, another appearance at nationals seemed well within reach.

“We started off good this week, we didn’t have our best and we were in the top five,” said senior Scott Fernandez, who finished in a tie for 46th place. “Going into the last day, we just needed a normal round. Better than the first two days, but we didn’t need to play our super best to make [the top five].”

Though the team carried out the part about not needing to play its best, it did not play up to its standard, either

The one-shot deficit from the top five quickly ballooned and was never under five shots as the Cyclones reached the back nine.

The putts that weren’t falling for birdies and pars in rounds one and two were now rimming out to save par or bogey.

Iowa State finished second in the field in pars and largely avoided disastrous holes, but it finished in dead last out of 14 in birdies made, with 35.

“I could just see there were a number of putts that weren’t going in early, we just couldn’t get any momentum early on,” Tank said. “There was a struggle to get anything going.”

Stuck in a rut of making pars, Iowa State dropped to eighth place as the rest of the field raced by. Its score of 295 tied for the 12th highest in the final round and paled in comparison to the seven teams who posted sub-par totals.

“We played poorly,” Tank said. “We needed to play well, it was going to take a good round today, we knew that. There were a lot of good teams in contention. We just unfortunately played poorly.”

Part of Iowa State’s poor play stemmed from Iowa State’s usual reliable leader, Fernandez. He was unable to match or break par 72 in all three rounds, an anomalous performance for a golfer who averaged just a shade over 72 shots per round (72.09) on the season.

His fellow senior, Sam Daley, was the lone consistent bright spot for Iowa State. The Aussie closed out his career on a high note with rounds of 70, 70 and 72 to tie for 10th place.

Though Fernandez’, the program leader in top-10 finishes, career scoring average, individual victories, among other records, would have preferred an alternate ending to his journey from Granada, Spain, he found a silver lining in his team’s accomplishments this season that seemed out of reach for the program just five years ago.

“We managed to get a title at the Hawkeye [Invitational], that’s a positive,” Fernandez said. “To make it easily into the regionals and place in the top four at Big 12’s is solid. We beat really good ranked teams. That showed what we can do and we can keep going in the right direction and get closer to a Big 12 title and making it to nationals next year.”

Tank said a sense of sadness swept over his two seniors after their final rounds as a Cyclone, but more as a result of a successful four-year career ending rather than disappointment stemming from a week of failure at regionals.

“I think they’re both sad to see the journey’s over, but they have so much to be proud of,” Tank said. “I think they’re sad, but pretty happy in the sense that they’ve had such an enjoyable career at Iowa State.”