ISU men’s golf has top-five upset on mind against Arizona State

Mike Randleman

Tempe, Ariz. is more than 1,000 miles from Ames, but for the ISU men’s golf team, it will feel a little like home.

Dating back to 2013, the ISU men’s golf team, ranked No. 48 by Golfstat, has played nearly a dozen rounds at Arizona State’s Karsten Golf Course, the host site for the Arizona State Thunderbird Invitational, which will take place Friday and Saturday.

Iowa State came to Tempe for warm weather practice before the beginning of the spring portion of the season, and 2015 marks the third consecutive year the Cyclones will tee it up at this event.

“We know the course, we don’t have to map it out, we know the strategy,” said Scott Fernandez, who owns two top-10 finishes in this event. “A lot of teams don’t have the experience like us. We don’t have to analyze the course while others will have to measure out distances. All we need to do is go out and play.”

The good fortune of course knowledge may aid the Cyclones against 12 of the 13 other teams in the field, but the one other team that knows the course is also the most dangerous opponent in the field, No. 3 Arizona State.

“[They’re] arguably one of the best teams in the country right now, so they’re going to be tough to beat on their home course,” said ISU coach Andrew Tank. “It’s going to be a good opportunity for us to see where we stack up.”

The Cyclones have experience knocking off the Sun Devils after outplaying them by 12 shots in the NCAA Regionals in 2014 to leapfrog them for a berth in the NCAA Championships

Despite the past success, Iowa State will face a stiffer ASU attack this time around.

The Sun Devils have four team victories on the season, one of which came at the Arizona Intercollegiate in January, where they topped Iowa State by 17 shots.

Arizona State also set a school record 54-hole total of 817 at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational last season en route to a 20-shot victory and a 34-shot clobbering of Iowa State.

Their success stems from the potent junior duo of No. 17 Max Rottluff and No. 2 Jon Rahm, who have combined for four victories and three runner-up finishes this season.

Rotluff is the top ranked German amateur in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. His partner, Rahm, tops the entire list at No. 1 and even has a top-five finish on the PGA Tour to his name after tying for fifth at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February.

To hang with the Sun Devils, Iowa State will also likely rely on its two stalwarts in Fernandez and Nick Voke.

The two have also combined for four victories this season, but unlike the Sun Devils, the Cyclones have been unable to get top-to-bottom contributions throughout the lineup on a consistent basis, keeping them away from the winner’s circle thus far.

“They have the two international guys, they feed off each other, then it just goes down from there and [the team] gets confident,” Fernandez said. “That’s what we need to do, too. We get off to a bad start, then we go downhill. We always manage to get it back in the last round, but we need to put it together all three rounds.”

One player who could put Iowa State over the top against a field that also features No. 14 Baylor and No. 31 San Diego State is Ruben Sondjaja.

Sondjaja set the ISU record for the lowest 18-hole score with a 64 in the second round at this event last season en route to tying for 17th place.

Along with Fernandez, Sondjaja and Voke, Sam Daley and Collin Foster will be in the starting lineup for Iowa State.