HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Last week Iowa State needed a school-record score just to reach the NCAA Championship.
Now that the Cyclones are in the finals for the first time since 1953, they figure they might as well continue playing their best golf of the season.
Off in the morning wave Saturday at Prairie Dunes, Iowa State led for a few hours before finishing with a team score of 2-under 278.
Last week at NCAA regionals, the Cyclones shot a final-round, 18-under 270 to move into the top 5 and punch their ticket to the championship.
“I was frustrated that it hadn’t happened earlier in the season,” head coach Andrew Tank said, “but for it to happen in the most important round of the year, it made up for that and then some. It gave us some perspective on how far this program has come.”
Indeed, two years ago Iowa State was just happy to reach regionals for the first time since ’99. Though at No. 50 the Cyclones are the lowest-ranked team in this week’s field, they feel confident they have what it takes to secure a match-play berth, even on a course that has baffled them in the past.
When the Big 12s were played at Prairie Dunes in 2011 and ’13, Tank’s teams shot a combined score of 164 over par.
The difference now?
“We’re just a lot better,” he said. “We’re in such a different place than a year ago. It’s a night-and-day difference.”