Pleading for fifth: Two ISU men’s golfers compete for final starting spot


Ryan Young/Iowa State Daily

Sophomore Jack Carter hits the ball out of a bunker during practice on Thursday at the team’s practice facility south of Ames.

Mike Randleman

At times, collegiate golf can weave a tangled web.

An individual sport like golf is transformed into a team format with five golfers contributing to one collective score, all while chasing individual medalist honors as well.

Even within the team dynamic, the web can be spun further when intra-squad competitions unfold to determine the five who crack the starting lineup, and who is resigned to compete as an individual or left home all together.

Such is the case for the ISU men’s golf team, which has seen sophomore Jack Carter and redshirt junior Collin Foster go toe-to-toe for the fifth starting spot all season.

“I think both have gotten their opportunities in that spot,” said ISU coach Andrew Tank. “I think we’re getting to the point in the season where we’re looking to have that position solidified. Both of them have had their good moments.”

Both, indeed, have had their opportunities. While Foster has six starts to Carter’s two, Carter has 18 rounds under his belt as a result of competing as an individual, compared to 21 for Foster.

Just as their opportunities have been nearly equal, so are their statistics.

Foster has Carter edged out in most categories, but the difference is as negligible as a one-foot tap in. At 76.48 strokes per round, Foster’s stroke average bests Carter by .3 strokes and his best finish, a tie for 32nd place, is only three places better than Carter’s.

Foster’s best round of 70 is one shot better than Carter’s, but to confound the situation further, Carter boasts a 3-2 advantage over Foster when both competed at the same event.

Has such a tightly-contested battle led to any animosity between the two?

“It’s just such a team sport and Collin’s played well,” Carter said. “I think everybody on the team has a friendly rivalry. We’re all brothers, we love each other and we go at it in qualifying all the time.”

The tight-knit team atmosphere has led to an alleviation of pressure in what had the makings of a cutthroat competition.

“It’s a pretty positive atmosphere,” Foster said. “Just knowing they’ll have your back, even if you don’t play well. They make it a lot easier to play well and you aren’t constantly looking over your shoulder.”

Regardless of who closes the year on a higher note, both are expected to be important pieces next year upon the departure of four-year starters Sam Daley and Scott Fernandez.

The fluctuation from the fifth slot has been less than ideal for Tank, but he acknowledged that both players seeing the course could pay dividends next season when both are projected to start.

“That’s definitely been a part of it this year, being able to play an individual in a number of tournaments,” Tank said. “Whether that’s been Jack or Collin, they’re both very important to the future of the team going into next year.”

Nonetheless, with the present taking priority over the future and the postseason looming a month away, the question of who Tank will choose down the stretch persists.

“Right now, Collin has just been a little bit better as of late. So he probably has a little bit of a head up on Jack. We’ll kind of see how that plays out,” Tank said.

More times than not, Foster has outperformed Carter in team qualifying rounds, and Tank said his veteran experience, along with his ever so slight edge in performance, led to the decision.

The decision is not set in stone, however, and Carter knows all too well that his name could be called in a pinch.

Before the NCAA regional tournament in 2014, starter Nick Voke was injured in a longboarding accident and missed the remaining postseason. With Foster already in the lineup, Carter was summoned to rush back to the team after returning home to Ohio for the summer.

Playing on short notice, Carter posted two of his best rounds as a Cyclone. He posted a 73 in the final round of regionals to help the team advance to nationals, where his score of 71 in the first round helped to keep the Cyclones afloat early on.

Like any competitor, Carter would prefer to be on the course, but he has found lessons from watching his teammates.

“Coach says you’re either winning or you’re learning,” Carter said. “It’d be great to be in the lineup, but when you’re not, you’re just looking for ways to improve your game. You can do that by watching golf.”

For Foster, the upcoming opportunity to crack the starting lineup gives him a chance to perform under pressure and find faith in a game that has been dormant since a top-10 finish last April and a tie for 28th at last year’s regionals.

“A lot of what I struggled with, even last year, was believing in [my] own game,” Foster said. “Because you’re out there playing number five, you feel on the bubble, so you have that element over your head, which is a good thing. It’s good to play with that pressure.”