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Iowa State junior golfer Tripp Kinney lines up a putt. Kinney ranks first on the team this year in stroke average (70.55).

As the first Iowa State golfer to make the NCAA Championships three times, junior Tripp Kinney is poised to carry his recent success to the championships in Arkansas.

Kinney finished first overall at the Big 12 Championships and qualified for NCAA Championships as an individual. He said the biggest part of his recent success is being able to handle his nerves on the course.

“I got a little more nervous as the week got on ... and those last couple holes were pretty nerve racking,” Kinney said.

To stay calm, Kinney said he utilizes breathing techniques to slow down his heart rate and loosen up while competing. 

Coach Tank and Tripp Kinney

Coach Andrew Tank watches Tripp Kinney in the tee box during a team practice.

“He’s learning how to manage [high pressure situations] and use that, so that it can be more fuel and more focus versus getting in the way,” Coach Andrew Tank said.

Tank said Kinney is averaging nearly three strokes less than last season, most likely due to being able to handle his stress better in high pressure situations.

Prior to the second round starting, Kinney noticed he was getting pre-round jitters and talked with Tank to work on settling in.

In the second round, Kinney started to heat up his putter.

Kinney birdied holes 16 through 18 and hit two separate 40-foot shots.

Tank and the rest of the Cyclone team were behind the 18th hole and saw Kinney birdie both holes 16 and 17 on the live scoring and watched Kinney sink his 40-foot shot. Tank said he thought the shot would be close, but as the ball closed in on the hole, he realized it had a chance of falling. The shot fell, and Kinney recorded his third straight birdie.

“I had a feeling after creating the game plan, I knew I’d be able to compete if I could get my putter going and [my] putter got pretty hot in that second round and third round,” Kinney said.

In the third round, Kinney struggled, but still finished atop the leaderboard and won the Big 12 Championship.

Tank said Kinney slept on his two-stroke lead and had to take an unplayable lie on the 15th hole, but he was able to recover and bounce back.

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Iowa State junior golfer Tripp Kinney tracks the ball after hitting his tee shot.

As a team, Iowa State failed to qualify for the NCAA Championships, but Kinney’s strong finish qualified him as an individual.

“[Qualifying is] just really hard to do — there’s only six guys that made it without the help of their team,” Tank said.

Moving forward, Kinney said he wants to stay calm and cool while building upon his performance in the NCAA Championships. Last year, Kinney didn’t manage his stress well but played decent golf despite it being one of the most “stressful rounds of golf he has ever played."

At the NCAA Championships, there are 30 teams and 156 total golfers who will all play 54 holes of golf starting Friday and ending Sunday. From there, the field will be reduced to 15 overall teams and the nine next best individuals — which Kinney will need to qualify for to advance.

Last year, Kinney said former high school rival Broc Everett gave him the confidence to compete at the championship level after Everett won the tournament. Everett played at Valley High School in West Des Moines and Kinney played at Waukee High School.

“It’s a lot of motivation for everybody from Iowa — especially me just knowing that it’s possible and it can be done, because Brock’s a great golfer, and I’ve grown up competing against him,” Kinney said.

Aside from the course and other golfers, Kinney will need to overcome his own stress to advance past the opening round of this years NCAA Championship.

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