Iowa men’s golf makes history at Big Ten Match Play

The team’s second-place finish is the best in school history.


Hannah Kinson

Benton Weinberg takes a starting shot during a golf invitational at Finkbine Golf Course on Saturday, April 20, 2019. Iowa came in first with a score of 593 against 12 other teams.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

After senior Alex Schaake expressed real optimism that the Hawkeyes could win their first team event of the shortened 2021 season, the Iowa men’s golf team came within one match of doing just that.

A 3-2 loss in the championship match to the top-seeded Indiana Hoosiers dashed Iowa’s chances of standing atop the conference at the Big Ten Match Play Championship from Feb. 5-6 at the Hammock Beach Ocean Course in Palm Coast, Florida.

“It’s tough to reach the championship match and not win, but I am so thankful for the experience we had together,” Iowa head coach Tyler Stith said in a release. “We gave it everything we had but just came up short at the end.”

Iowa reached the championship match, the culmination of two days-worth of head-to-head battles, after three straight 3-2 wins.

Iowa defeated Nebraska and Penn State on day one and beat Michigan State in comeback fashion on Saturday morning to set up its showdown with Indiana in the afternoon.

In the final match, with two of the individual matches over early — a 5&3 win for Iowa’s Benton Weinberg and a 3&2 loss from Hawkeye senior Jake Rowe — three matches were decided on the final hole.

Junior Gonzalo Leal Montero made his fifth birdie of the round on the match’s 18th hole to beat Clay Merchant 1UP to put the Hawkeyes’ second point on the board. But both sophomore Mac McClear and Schaake lost the last hole of their matches to fall to their opponents.

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McClear, a Hinsdale, Illinois, native, found himself one hole behind, needing to win the last hole to tie the match and force extra holes. Instead, he made a bogey while Indiana’s Harry Reynolds made a closing birdie to win the match 2 UP.

The Hawkeyes’ best player, Schaake, was tied with his opponent Mitch Davis heading into the last hole but the senior from Omaha, Nebraska, made a finishing bogey to fall in his match by a single hole.

Schaake, Leal Montero, McClear, and Weinberg each competed in all four of the team’s matches. In the team’s fifth spot, senior Jake Rowe took over for graduate transfer Charles Jahn after Jahn surrendered back-to-back lopsided losses on Friday.

Weinberg and Schaake each went 3-1 this week while Leal Montero and McClear posted even 2-2 records. Rowe went 1-1 in his relief of Jahn. All the Hawkeye golfers except Jahn played in last year’s edition of the conference match play championships.

Last year at this event, Iowa also went 3-1 but lost in its first match of the championship taking them out of championship contention early on.

Northwestern, the 2020 winners of the Big Ten Match Play Championship, took two surprising losses to Michigan State and Penn State after receiving a first-round bye.

The Hawkeyes will be back in action next weekend as they will travel to the Kiawah Invitational in Charleston, South Carolina, from Feb 14-16.

The women’s team will kick off its 2021 slate on Feb. 8-9 at the FAU Paradise Invitational in Boca Raton, Florida.