Ben Allan Smith
While many of the nation’s gyms, parks, and other athletic facilities were closed or may still be shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, a high percentage of golf courses in the U.S. either have remained open — or were some of the first businesses to reopen.
The Iowa golf program has taken full advantage.
“Some of our guys have been able to get out and play once they were done with school,” Iowa men’s golf coach Tyler Stith said. “A couple of our international players, however, they’re just starting to get back to normal. As far as golf compared to some other sports, maybe we’re slightly ahead.”
Golf is a unique sport in that many players have private coaches. Communication between the player, the private instructor, and the Iowa coaches is important to success, according to Stith.
“A lot of these guys, when they come to college, they might have a private instructor that they’ve had since they were a kid,” Stith said. “At that point, our job as coaches is to kind of be the quarterback and to mediate between instructor and player. The instructors are there to help with technical improvements and we try not to do a lot of that during the season because we just don’t have the time. I encourage them to do that in the offseason.”
Although there have been limited options for competitive tournaments so far this summer, some players have been entered into events and played well.
For the men’s team, Matthew Garside, Mac McClear, and Charles Jahn all played their first events of the summer this week, while Alex Schaake teed off for the second time.
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Schaake, a Nebraska native, played well all season long for the Hawkeyes, finishing in a tie for seventh place at the last tournament before the pandemic shut the season down. Schaake followed up last week’s sudden-death playoff loss with a third-place finish June 14.
Schaake has kept his game sharp throughout the pandemic.
“My home course in Omaha was open the whole entire time so I was playing every single day,” Schaake said. “It was kind of frustrating because it was super hard to get a tee time. Everyone wanted to play and that’s like the only thing you could do. The course put limits on how many times we could play each week.”
Players on the women’s team have also started playing competitively as well.
“We have had a few players play some summer tournaments,” women’s head coach Megan Menzel said. “Lea [Zeitler] is playing some tournaments in Austria, Mongan Goldstein is playing some Cactus Tour events on the west coast. I think Brett Permann is going to play the Colorado [State] Amateur this week.”
Schedules have not been released for this fall. Whenever Iowa’s golfers can get back on the green, their practice time has prepared them well for what the fall brings.