Men’s golf to begin spring season in Tucson

Mike Randleman

A total of 113 days separate the ISU men’s golf team’s final fall tournament from the advent of the spring season, though the Cyclones will aim to continue their success from a three-tournament fall slate that resulted in two individual medalist honors.

Iowa State is ranked No.43/44 (Golfweek/Golfstat) and the team’s long layoff will come to an end at the Sewailo Golf Club on Jan. 26 in Tucson, Ariz. at the Arizona Intercollegiate, which serves as the beginning of an eight-tournament spring slate.

ISU coach Andrew Tank sees the team’s first event in over three months as more of a fresh start instead of a direct continuation of the fall season that saw sophomore Nick Voke and senior Scott Fernandez net medalist honors.

The team also notched two runner-up finishes, albeit against a schedule currently ranked No. 93, according to Golfweek.

Despite the fresh start approach, Tank does expect to see continuation from the progress he saw his players make in the offseason, particularly from international players who had the opportunity to compete in their native countries, which featured an alternative to the cold winter winds of Ames.

“Three guys played tournaments over break: Sam [Daley], Ruben [Sondjaja] and Scott [Fernandez]. And Nick [Voke] did quite a bit of practicing when he was home in New Zealand,” Tank said. “We’re trying to kind of build off of that and make this [The Arizona Intercollegiate] a continuation and it’ll just be nice to see where we’re at.”

During Winter Break, Daley and Sondjaja placed in a tie for 16th and a tie for 29th, respectively, at the Australian Master of the Amateurs on Jan. 9, an event that featured notables Guan Tianlang, Bryson Dechambeau and Corey Connors, among others.

Fernandez finished in fourth place at the Copa Andalucía on Jan. 11, one of Spain’s top amateur events.

For the Cyclones to have success in Tucson, a site the team has yet to see under Tank’s tenure at Iowa State, they will rely on the aforementioned Voke, Daley, Sondjaja and Fernandez to lead the way.

Those four have each led the team in a given tournament on several occasions, but success has been fleeting at the fifth starting spot, which has been in flux dating back to the beginning of the 2013-14 season.

Though only four of five scores are counted per round for team scoring, the lack of production from the fifth spot places a stronger emphasis on Iowa State’s nucleus to come through each and every round.

This week, sophomore Jack Carter will man the fifth starting spot after earning the nod during the team’s three-day qualifying tournament in Tempe, Ariz., the previous weekend.

Carter, who owns a  77.2 scoring average with six rounds as an individual under his belt this season, beat out redshirt junior Collin Foster, who owns a 77.3 scoring average and started all three fall events.

According to the Golfstat rankings, Iowa State is the fifth-highest ranked team in a field of 15 teams, none of which Iowa State has competed against this season.

Perennial NCAA finals contender, California, is the field’s highest-ranked team at No. 22. The Bears are one of three top-25 teams, along with No. 24 New Mexico and No. 25 Arizona State.

The Tucson Intercollegiate will mark the fifth time out of eight that Iowa State will travel to Arizona, dating back to last season. Though the Sewailo Golf Club will be a new site for the Cyclones, playing in the Copper State provides a level of comfort for the team.

“We’re definitely comfortable with the climate change and the altitude change that sort of alters how I hit the ball,” said Ruben Sondjaja, who tied the school record for low round — 64 — at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational in Tempe, Ariz., in March 2014. “We do gain a bit of distance down there and we’re used to that by now, so there are no surprises there. We’re sort of all familiar with the golf we need down there and how to play well.”