With the Iowa State men's golf seeing the Big 12 championship on the horizon, it means it is time to leave the regular season and all the ups and downs that came with it in the past. 

For the Cyclones, the regular season has seen far more ups than downs, with individuals having breakout seasons, setting new personal records and helping build the team's postseason resume into a success. 

Two head honchos

Iowa State men's golf doesn't have the luxury of sports like football or basketball where rosters are deep with reserves to replace injured on underperforming starters at any time. 

The Cyclones only have eight players on the roster, with six of the eight being underclassmen.

That being said, a team this small relies on consistent play from their top players in order to maintain a competitive edge each tournament they play in.

Tripp Kinney and Lachlan Barker have gone beyond that this season for Iowa State.

Lachlan Barker

Sophomore Lachland Barker came from Australia to compete with Cyclone men's golf. Barker set a new personal best during his 2018-19 season with more than 120 birdies.

Barker, a sophomore from Willunga, Australia, is currently on pace to blow by the current single-season record for stroke average held by Scott Fernandez in 2012-13 with Fernandez holding a 71.27 average.

Before Big 12 play begins, Barker walks into the tournament with a 70.67 average.

His teammate Kinney's average is not far behind. 

Kinney holds a 70.85 average, which in years past would have been clearly the best stroke average for a single season, but is good for second-best on the 2018-19 team.

Since 1990, there have been no Cyclones to average below a 71 stroke average in a season. This season, Iowa State could have two.

"Both of them have been consistently solid and at the top of the leaderboard a lot this year," Tank said. "They have really impressed me with what they have accomplished for us this year."

Golf

Tripp Kinney watches where his ball goes after a chip onto the practice green on April 5.

Kinney and Barker have accomplished quite a bit on their path to potentially historic stroke averages.

Barker and Kinney have combined for eight top-10 finishes this season and 21 rounds in the 60s, and both hold the season-low score for a round of 18 holes with a 65.

Tank said it has been vital to have not just one but two top performers have breakout seasons at the same time, as the program reaps all the benefits.

Tank said if both Kinney and Barker continue their regular season prowess to the postseason, the Cyclones will be in good shape.

Barker was not one to boast about his accomplishments this season, saying he was happy to help his team's chances at each tournament and thinks that both he and Kinney should both be given equal praise.

"If you can count on a couple really consistent scores it can be really good for the team overall," Barker said. "I am just glad both of us have found success this season."

Kinney, like his teammate Barker, said that without the depth and talent of newcomers and underclassmen on the roster, he and Barker would not have been able to accomplish nearly as much.

Kinney said having depth behind those who have the ability to put up great scores at any time takes pressure off both himself and Barker. Kinney said he can focus on being relaxed and playing free on the course instead of worrying about posting a good round so the team can be in good position.

Barker's birdies

Looking past an already historic season in terms of stroke average, Barker has set new personal records for himself this season.

With his 122 birdies before Big 12 championship play, he has already passed his 2017-18 mark of 112 birdies.

Barker's 122 birdies leads the team and if his pace continues, by year's end he will speed by last year's team leader in birdies, Denzel Ieremia.

In his senior year, Ieremia posted 133 birdies for the Cyclones.

Barker's new individual accomplishment has led him to shoot 17 rounds under-par for Iowa State this season. 

"It was about going low for me," Barker said. "Last year I would play a really good round and then get tense and really high in stress because I was afraid of messing up after having a great round."

Those fears and doubts are a thing of the past, according to Barker, who said Tank and others helped him build his confidence back up.

Barker will need to average at least three birdies in each of the four rounds at the Big 12 Championship if he is hoping to pass Ieremia's mark this weekend. 

An impressive resume

Iowa State men's golf is one of many teams at Iowa State where the postseason is no guarantee, even if the program had a breakout year like the Cyclones have had.

Like in NCAA March Madness and the College Football playoff, the Cyclones will need to rely on their "resume" for their season to determine if they will make it past Big 12 Championship play.

"This is the highest we have been ranked since I have been here, so I think we are in pretty good shape," Tank said.

Tank understands the decision isn't in his hands but feels strongly about the Cyclones' chance of making it to the NCAA regional for the third consecutive year, and with good reason.

Iowa State is ranked No. 31 in the country by Golfstat, which is the main source for how teams are picked for the regional slots, according to Tank.

Even if rankings were thrown out the window, the Cyclones have plenty of bright spots on their regular season resume:

  1. The lowest finish this year for Iowa State has been seventh place at the Arizona State Thunderbird. Last season, Iowa State had two finishes of 13th or worse.

  2. Iowa State has beaten No. 9 Duke, No. 23 North Carolina, No. 24 NC State and No. 25 Baylor at tournaments this season.

  3. The Cyclones have two players ranked in the top-100 by Golfstat, which ranks the best collegiate golfers in the country. Barker is ranked No. 70 and Kinney sits at No. 74. The program had one last year with Denzel Ieremia finishing at No. 81.

Golf

Part of the men's golf team talks and gets prepared to tee off on the first hole April 5 at Coldwater Golf Links.

Like every resume, however, there are always some blemishes that put doubt in peoples' minds. The Cyclones have only a few negative aspects of their season but they could still hurt them when it comes time for NCAA regional selection.

"If you start thinking ahead to regionals and nationals that will hurt you because they are not certainties, so every shot counts at this stage," Barker said.

These are the lowlights of the 2018-19 season:

  1. Iowa State is 2-11 against the Big 12 this year. In the 2017-18 season, the Cyclones went 12-11 against conference opponents.

A big reason for the bad record against Big 12 competition is the fact that Iowa State went 0-5 as a team and went 9-18-3 as individuals at the Big 12 Match Play Tournament in mid-October. Iowa State lost to the two lowest seeds at the tournament in No. 10 West Virginia and Kansas State.

  1. Iowa State has finished in the top three at a tournament three times this year. Those finishes were at the Badger Invitational, Windon Memorial and Colleton River Collegiate. Last season, Iowa State had four finishes in the top three, winning two of those tournaments.

The Cyclones' resume is likely good enough to warrant a NCAA regional berth, but Iowa State will know for sure once the NCAA regional selection show takes place at 8 p.m. May 1 on the Golf Channel.

Tank doesn't see the postseason as a time for the Cyclones to ramp up the intensity and work harder, as Tank has seen their hard work all season long.

"If anything this is time to enjoy all the hard work they have put in throughout the season," Tank said. "Their work is really done now."

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