Schaake’s unique playing style, willingness to change proves to be winning combo

Alex Schaake won the Indian Creek Invitational by a single shot on Sunday to qualify for the second Korn Ferry Tour event of his career.

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Ben Allan Smith

Iowa’s Alex Schaake poses for a portrait at Hoak Family Golf Complex on Tuesday, April 24, 2018.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter


When a golfer changes putting grips, it doesn’t usually produce a great performance on the greens immediately.

Last weekend, Iowa rising senior Alex Schaake was the exception.

Just two days prior to the start of the Indian Creek Invitational, the 2019 Men’s Big Ten Golfer of the Year switched his grip on the putter from crosshanded — the left hand lower than the right — to a more conventional style for a right-hander, the opposite.

He won the tournament.

After two bogeys and a birdie in the first five holes, Schaake settled down and shot three-under-par on his last 13 holes without making another bogey.

Schaake has been working on being a little more conservative on the course this off-season, trying to avoid big numbers.

“I think most importantly I’ve improved on my irons,” Schaake said prior to his Sunday round. “My irons play has been really, really good lately. I was struggling a little bit in the early parts of the summer. I feel like I’ve gotten smarter, I haven’t been attacking as many pins that I can’t really get to. Just playing smarter and making more pars that way.”

One element of Schaake’s game has aided him in productively practicing his irons and helped him see positive results from his work: his fade. Instead of trying to move the ball right to left on the range, Schaake has been trying to move it left to right.

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“If I just move it left to right all the time, it’s just half of what everyone else practices,” Schaake said. “And I can practice it just as much and you get really good at that. Even though your ball is going to move left to right every time, it’s definitely the way to go.”

The change, according to Schaake, has helped him stay more consistent on the course. He made the decision after feeling discouraged during his freshman season for the Hawkeyes.

“I don’t even think I top-20’d once that spring,” Schaake said. “I wasn’t playing very good and I was kind of lost. I was moving the ball right to left at that time. It was the third round of the Big Ten Championship. I didn’t play very well the first couple rounds, I think I was in like 40th place, and I just told myself, ‘OK, I going to change it up, try something new. I’m going to hit a cut shot on every single shot no matter where the ball is, whether I have to turn it right to left to a back left pin, I’m just going to hit a cut.’

“Ever since that day, I ended up shooting four under. I’ve never gone back. That’s kind of the thing that got me over that barrier.”

Schaake has done a lot more than clear that barrier back in 2017. He has built a successful career in Iowa City that, by all indications, can only get better next year.

In the meantime, because of his latest triumph, he will be teeing it up in his second career start on the Korn Ferry Tour at the Pinnacle Bank Championship in roughly three weeks.

The tournament will be played on the same course that Schaake just won on, The Club at Indian Creek in Omaha, Nebraska. His brother Carson, who graduated from Iowa in 2017, also qualified for the event.

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