Iowa Men’s Golf Set to Host Premier Event

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa men’s golf program is set to host a premier event this weekend -- the fifth annual Golfweek Conference Challenge -- to open the 2013-14 campaign.

The Hawkeyes welcome 15 teams from 15 conferences to Spirit Hollow Golf Course in Burlington, Iowa. Play begins Sunday at 9 a.m. (CT), and continues with 18 holes on Monday (9 a.m.) and Tuesday (8:30 a.m. shotgun start).

“This is a unique event to college golf, because it puts only one school from a conference in the field,” said Lance Ringler, Golfweek Assistant Editor. “There is no other tournament like it in the country.

“The teams and players that participate in this event really enjoy it because they get to see schools that they might not normally get to see; some of the best schools from the mid-major conferences as well. The event has been well received in the college golf world, and we have had no problem getting schools to commit to playing each year.”

Florida State claimed the tournament title in 2009 before the Hawkeyes won the event in 2010. Missouri secured last year’s title and Arkansas won the Challenge in 2011.

The 2013 field is again strong, featuring three defending conference champions and three conference runner-ups.

“This year’s field is neat because we have some big-name programs that have not been to this event; LSU, a top-10 team this year, Arizona, New Mexico, who was a top-five team last year and might be again this year, and some traditional schools like Chattanooga and Houston,” said Ringler. “This is a good field with good programs. When you continuously get new programs that want to play in the event, that means it is a good event.”

This year marks the fourth-straight year in which Spirit Hollow Golf Course has served as the host venue.

“Everyone raves about Spirit Hollow and how it is a beautiful piece of property,” said Ringler. “The staff at Spirit Hollow has really welcomed the event. This is probably the best tournament in the state of Iowa, in terms of its amateur field, each and every year.”

For the Hawkeyes, the event is a perfect way to open the year.

“When we create a strong home event, it helps our strength of schedule,” said UI head coach Mark Hanksins. “It also allows us to play a course that is familiar to us. We have a slight home advantage as far as the course is concerned, against a national field.

“We can expose our players to Hawkeye fans and support, and people that do not get to see our program play golf.”

Iowa is looking to make its sixth-straight NCAA postseason appearance this year. The Challenge will provide the first look at the 2013-14 squad.

“We are kind of an unknown right now,” said Hankins. “We have a team that is extremely deep. We know what we are getting at the top with Steven (Ihm). He is a proven player in college and amateur golf. Beyond him, the guys have been inconsistent at times.

“We are looking to put together five good scores each day, and play to our potential, which is all we can do. If we do that, we will be challenging for a tournament title.”

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