Hawkeyes’ charge lands NCAA berth

University of Iowa coach Mark Hankins, left, and player Brad Hopfinger during the Men's NCAA Southeast Regional at Red Tail Golf Club in Sorrento, Fla.

University of Iowa coach Mark Hankins, left, and player Brad Hopfinger during the Men's NCAA Southeast Regional at Red Tail Golf Club in Sorrento, Fla.

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1Joey GarberGeorgia  68.61 
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SORRENTO, Fla. – Two years ago, the Iowa men’s team was ranked 152nd in the country. Now the Hawkeyes are headed to the NCAA Division I Men’s Championship.

Iowa shot 8-under 276 Saturday at RedTail Golf Club to finish fifth at the NCAA Southeast Regional with a 15-under 837 total. The Hawkeyes, who started the day in seventh place, grabbed the final berth into the NCAA Championship by six shots over Georgia State.

Iowa last made the NCAA Championship in 1995; the Hawkeyes haven’t been invited to regional play since.

But they’ve seen great improvement since Mark Hankins became head coach before the 2007-08 season. The Hawkeyes were ranked 106th last year, and entered regional play at No. 59.

Iowa senior Cole Peevler, who was “born and raised” a Hawkeye, led the team with a 5-under 66 Saturday. He finished tied for 19th at 4-under 209.

“From where we were two years ago, to where we are now, it’s incredible,” Peevler said.

Iowa sophomore Brad Hopfinger, who played last year at Kansas, finished tied for 10th at 6-under 207 (71-67-69). Hopfinger is one of three new players on the Iowa lineup, along with freshmen Chris Brant and Barrett Kelpin.

All five Hawkeyes shot at least one sub-par round.

“Our depth showed this week because different guys stepped up and led us,” Hankins said. “I told them just to be gritty and tough, and they were tough to the last hole.”

• • •

South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald shaved off his goatee. Senior Mark Silvers III sung songs to himself.

They may not be conventional tactics, but they worked for the 10th-ranked Gamecocks, who started Saturday’s final round tied for fifth, but shot 15-under 269 to finish in a three-way tie for second with Arizona (282) and Georgia (272). All three teams finished at 23-under 829.

“We were pretty down after yesterday. We lost a lot of shots. I’m just really proud of how they responded,” McDonald said. “I have a very resilient group.”

Silvers led the Gamecocks’ charge with a 7-under 64. Brothers George Bryan IV (67) and Wesley Bryan (68) also came through in the clutch.

South Carolina won the West Regional two years ago, but failed to qualify for last year’s NCAA Championship, in part of because of last year’s bad memories and because only five spots to the NCAA Championship were available, instead of 10 in the old format.

“(In the second round), we were probably more worried about holding our position than trying to win the tournament,” Silvers said. “We came out today trying to be aggressive.”

None of Silvers’ eight birdies came on putts longer than 15 feet. Whenever he started to get ahead of himself, he sung songs to himself like The Wallflowers’ “One Headlight” and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Can’t Stop” in order to refocus on the present.

“I heard ‘One Headlight’ this week, and I hadn’t heard it for years. It’s been stuck in my head since,” Silvers said.

• • •

In the first two rounds of the Southeast Regional, no Central Florida player shot higher than even-par 71. The Knights shot 11-under 273 Saturday, even though only two players broke par.

Freshman Blayne Barber shot a school- and course-record 62, while redshirt freshman Brad Schneider fired 63 to lead Central Florida to its first-ever regional title. It finished at 34-under 818, 11 shots ahead of Georgia, Arizona and South Carolina.

Schneider finished second at 13-under 200, two shots behind Arizona’s Tarquin MacManus (69). Barber, the Conference USA player and freshman of the year, finished third at 11 under par.

Central Florida earned its first NCAA Championship berth since 1992.

• • •

SHORT SHOTS: Charlotte junior Corey Nagy earned the regional’s individual berth after finishing fourth at 9-under 204 (65-70-69). ... Charlotte and Kentucky started the final round in the top five, but fell out. Charlotte, which started the day in fourth, shot 2-over 286 to finish tied for seventh, seven shots outside the top five. Kentucky, which was tied for fifth through two rounds, shot 1-over 285 to finish ninth, another shot back. ...Indiana, the regional’s second seed, shot its first sub-par round of the week, a 7-under 277, to finish 12th. Jorge Campillo shot 67, while three other players shot 70s. Campillo, No. 4 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, finished tied for 40th.

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