Men’s golf set to play historic venue at Big 12 Championship


Senior golfer Scott Fernandez works on his putting at practice on April 14.

Mike Randleman

Southern Hills Country Club has played host to some of the greatest golfers in the world, with the likes of Nick Price, Tom Lehman and Tiger Woods all claiming major championships at the historic venue.

This week, No. 41 Iowa State and its Big 12 foes will convene for the Big 12 Championship on April 27 to 29 in Tulsa, Okla., with the hopes of carving out its own piece of history at one of golf’s most hallowed grounds.

“I’ve got some memories watching it on TV. I think [Retief] Goosen was in the hunt for it once,” Fernandez said of Goosen’s 2001 U.S. Open win. “It’s pretty cool to go to a course like that. When you’re a kid watching on TV you hope one day you’re there.”

Like Fernandez, much of the field will experience the course for the first time, at least in competition.

Southern Hills has not hosted the Big 12 Championship since 2006, which will make for as close to a neutral site as ever, though Iowa State does have one player with experience.

Sam Daley competed in the 2014 Trans-Mississippi Championship in July, tying for 42nd place in a field composed mostly of collegiate golfers.

More importantly, the senior picked up some valuable course knowledge to share with his team.

“It was really good, it’s just your traditional golf course,” Daley, who placed second at the 2014 Big 12 Championship, said. “It’s a ball-striker’s course. You have to hit a lot of greens, you’ve got to hit the fairways and it’s a little longer. It’s just a championship-style course.”

For the rest of the team, its next-best bet to adapt to revered golf course architect Perry Maxwell’s layout came from a local source.

The Cyclones played a practice round days before departing for Oklahoma at Veenker Memorial Golf Course in Ames, Iowa — their de facto home course — as well as another Maxwell design.

Since moving from Veenker to the team’s new practice facility in the fall of 2013, Iowa State sparingly plays there, nor does it host a home meet.

Instead, the team often opts for practice rounds at Coldwater Golf Links or The Harvester in Rhodes, Iowa. With some similarities in Veenker and Southern Hills, ISU coach Andrew Tank sought to give Veenker a chance this week.

“I think it should give us some similar looks off the tee with the tree-lined fairways,” Tank said. “Driving is going to be at a premium at Southern Hills.”

Iowa State hopes to use its preparation to its advantage as it prepares to compete against one of the deepest Big 12 fields to date.

Three teams are in the top 10 in Golfstat’s April 22 ranking, headed by No. 2 Texas, whose entire starting lineup is composed of top-100 players, per Golfstat’s individual ranking.

Two other teams are in the top 25, with three others, including Iowa State, in the top 100.

At No. 41, Iowa State is all but a lock for NCAA Regionals, but remain an underdog this week as the seventh-ranked team out of nine vying for the championship.

“We have this year a very strong field, stronger than last year,” Sondjaja said. “We have five teams in the top 25 and [at No. 41], we’re ranked seventh. It just shows we’re a very strong conference with a lot of well-respected players and coaches.”

Iowa State will open play Monday morning and will be grouped with 8-seed No. 67 Kansas and 9-seed No. 120 Kansas State. The Cyclones will play 72 holes instead of the traditional 54 holes, with 36 holes set for Monday and 18 on Tuesday and Wednesday.