Sights and sounds from a remarkable weekend of walking 54 holes with the Iowa State men’s golf team at the NCAA Regional Championship in Columbia, Mo.
The Cyclones entered the tournament seeded 9th (of 14 teams) in the region. Only 5 schools would advance to the NCAA Championship. Iowa State had not participated in the national meet since ’53.
Three days before departure, ISU learned that freshman Nick Voke (who led the team with 8 rounds in the 60s this year) had broken his collarbone. Coach Andrew Tank had to steady his team and reshuffle the line-up. At that point, the No. 9 seed seemed high.
STEPPING UP That would be sophomore Collin Foster. The Waukee native – who played as the No. 5 man much of the season – was both steady (75-73 in the opening rounds) and spectacular (68, with a holed wedge for eagle, on Saturday). Foster’s tie for 26th was critical and impressive.
BEST ROOKIE That would be true freshman Ruben Sondjaja. In his first season of college golf, Sondjaja fired rounds of 72-70-70 in the NCAA Regional Championship and his three-round total of 4-under par was good for a tie for 17th. His finish was the best of any true freshman in the field.
CONTRIBUTING IN MULTIPLE WAYS When Voke was injured, Tank called freshman Jack Carter to take his place. Carter had already gone home for the summer. Knowing his score in the final round could be a tie-breaker, Carter shot a season-low 73. Additionally, Carter’s uncle (a Columbia resident) hosted a team dinner Friday night and that rib-fest hit the spot for all.
QUOTE OF THE TOURNAMENT When I asked junior Sam Daley how his round was going one day, the sweet-swinging Aussie said, “I’m traveling well, mate.” After laughing at the description of his play, I agreed that he was definitely traveling well. His rounds of 74-72-66 showed a steady progression and the 66 included 4 birdies in the last 7 holes. That was, indeed, traveling well!
QUOTE II Coach Andrew Tank: “I have been hoping for a round like this all year where it really clicks. For it to actually happen on the most important day of the season is so rewarding.” To put it into perspective, Iowa State’s 18-under par score in the final round was a school record and came in arguably the most-important day (with an NCAA Championship berth on the line) in program history.
EAGLE HUNTER You might have needed to see it to believe it. In the final round, Scott Fernandez blistered a 6-hole stretch in 5-under par. Remarkably, he putted for eagle on three straight holes. Fernandez drove the green (with a 3-wood) on the 334-yard (card yardage) 8th hole and then reached both the 575-yard 9th and 530-yard 10th holes in 2 shots.
All in all, it was 54 holes of drama and excitement for ISU golf. The NCAA Championship starts Friday in Hutchinson, KS. For the first time in 61 years Iowa State is in the field.