IOWA CITY — University of Iowa men’s golf coach Mark Hankins continuously stresses the importance of preparation before his team takes the course.
The Hawkeyes’ annual Hawkeye-Great River Entertainment Invitational, which starts today at Finkbine Golf Course, sets up as preparation for an environment much like they will experience at the Big Ten Championships.
“I think individually these guys are going to concentrate on doing what they can do to be in the top 10,” Hankins said. “Each of them have individual goals and if they achieve those goals I think our team goals will be satisfied.”
The 19th edition of the tournament features 11 schools, including six Big Ten teams the Hawks will compete against at the end of the month.
The tournament also will serve as an opportunity for Iowa to prepare and better position itself for a spot at what could be its fourth-consecutive NCAA postseason run.
“We have a lot of first-year guys that are playing for us right now,” Hankins said. “They start looking to me first and then the seniors second to understand what is coming at them.
“I have made it clear this is the most important tournament on our schedule right now.”
The Hawkeyes lost two of their top performers from a year ago, Vince India and Brad Hopfinger. They still have two players who helped the team to a 10th-place finish at the 2011 NCAA Championships.
Chris Brant was the team’s top finisher at last year’s NCAA tournament and took second at the Big Ten Championships. Brant knows what an opportunity it is to have such an expansive amount of Big Ten teams competing this weekend at the Hawks’ home course.
“It is always nice to play as many Big Ten teams as you can because they are good,” Brant said. “The more teams we can play against, the better we fare in the Big Ten Championship.”
Barrett Kelpin was alongside Brant at last year’s NCAA Championships, finishing third on the team and shooting his tournament personal best (71) in the final round.
“Coach is always talking to us about (preparation) on and off the golf course,” Kelpin said. “We just have to get into what we do every day personally and not get to caught up in things that people around us ask us to do.”
The Hawkeyes have an advantage of playing on a home course that can be a challenge to newcomers — if they are prepared.
“All of this is preparation for trying to get to the end of the year, trying to make it to the NCAA regionals and move onto the NCAA finals,” Hankins said.