Named after two-time major champion and Iowa native Zach Johnson, the Zach Johnson Invitational is an annual collegiate golf tournament that hosts the best young golfers from around the area.
This year, Iowa’s Gonzalo Leal Montero bested competitors from Missouri State, Iowa Western, Drake, Indian Hills Community College, and Central College. Leal Montero lapped the field in three days of action, shooting two-over-par. His closest challenger was Drake’s Tim Lim, who shot five-over-par on the tournament.
“The conditions were better today than yesterday, but the course was still tricky,” Leal Montero said. “I think I did a good job playing smart on some holes, not aiming to the pin but rather finding the middle of the green. Although I was a little bit off from the tee, I gave myself chances by hitting my irons well. I was aggressive when I felt I could and made some nice putts down the stretch.”
After shooting a pair of two-over-par 73s for the first two rounds of the tournament, Leal Montero turned it on, firing a two-under-par 69 on the final day of competition. He was the only golfer in the 47-man field to score under par in the final round at the 6,898-yard Glen Oaks Country Club in Des, Moines, Iowa.
Leal Montero wasn’t the only Hawkeye participating in the event. He was joined by a number of his teammates like former Big Ten Men’s Golfer of the Year Alex Schaake, sophomore Mac McClear, senior Charles Jahn, sophomore Garrett Tighe, senior Benton Weinberg, senior Jake Rowe, and sophomore Matthew Garside.
Leal Montero and Schaake were paired together for the final round on Tuesday.
“It was fun to play with Alex today,” Leal Montero said. “We were pushing and supporting each other all day.”
All of the Hawkeyes competing in the tournament did so unattached from the University of Iowa and its men’s golf team. Competing as a team would’ve violated the Big Ten Conference’s restrictions on fall athletics competitions outside the sport of football.
On Aug. 11, the Big Ten announced that all fall athletics competitions would be postponed to the spring. The conference then revised that statement on Sept. 16, reinstating football but not other fall sports.
Should the Hawkeyes have had the opportunity to compete as team, they would’ve won the event. Of the eight Iowa golfers competing, seven finished in the top ten. Schaake finished third, McClear placed fourth, Jahn took fifth, Tighe claimed sixth, Weinberg tied for ninth, and Rowe finished 11th.
The overall winner of the tournament, Missouri State, had just two golfers place inside the top ten – Chris Obert and Max Kreikemeier tied for seventh.
Excluding Hawkeyes, Lim was the only golfer to shoot a single-digit, over-par number for the tournament.
It is unclear when the Hawkeyes will have the opportunity to compete as a team. While the NCAA did announce spring start dates for a number of fall sports on Sept. 23, golf was not one of them. Men’s golf plays in both the fall and spring, but is widely considered to be a spring sport.