With the majority of Iowa State's winter sports nearing an end, men's golf will likely begin to creep into the minds of Cyclone sports fans.
The attention is coming at the right time.
The Iowa State men's golf team is continuing to improve, coming off its best finish of the season. At the Colleton River Collegiate, the Cyclones finished in a season-high second place, led by junior Lachlan Barker, who finished tied for third in the tournament.
Iowa State began the spring season ranked as the 84th best team in the country, according to GolfStat's rankings. After a relatively slow start to the spring season, it has seen a dramatic jump in GolfStat's latest installment of rankings. The Cyclones are now viewed as a top-60 team in the country, positioned at 55th in GolfStat's rankings as of March 3.
GolfStat's rankings are always a subjective list and they don't always tell the whole story. When the Cyclones' senior leader Tripp Kinney was asked about his thoughts on the list, he had to be honest.
"It is definitely something that I will keep an eye on," Kinney said. "We're still very far from where we think we can be, and if we keep getting better we'll hopefully move up the rankings throughout the spring."
Although national ratings do not reflect a team's success directly, they do take into account how teams perform against one another. If the Cyclones keep moving up GolfStat's leaderboard it will certainly mean their play is not lacking on the golf course.
Chris Baker's PGA Success
Chris Baker attended Iowa State in the mid-2000s as a member of the men's golf team. His time in Ames, Iowa, was quite successful during his four year collegiate career, as he recorded 17 top 10 finishes and closed out his career by breaking the single season program stroke average at the time of his senior season, with an average of 71.46.
Since Baker has left Ames, he has had quite the 11-year professional golf career. He had spent time on the Web.com Tour and most recently the Korn Ferry Tour, which are two of the alternative professional routes for golfers.
After a tumultuous path to the top, Baker recently earned his PGA Tour card in September after a top 25 finish in the final Korn Ferry Tour standings, where he finished in 15th place. Baker became the first Iowa State alumni to ever officially hold a spot on the PGA Tour.
To begin the season, the Brownstown, Indiana, native missed the cut in all four of his first four tournaments, but then something changed. Iowa State's current Head Coach Andrew Tank was fortunate enough to come in contact with Baker, a golfer he never coached. In November, the current Iowa State team was fortunate enough to soak up all the golf knowledge the former Cyclone had to offer.
"In November, we were playing in a tournament in Houston and we were able to meet with Chris, who was playing in the same area," Tank said. We were able to spend about an hour just talking with him about his experiences both as a college player and now."
Even Baker seemed to use this meeting as momentum, as he went on to finish top 35 in his following two events. More recently, he has had some life-changing experiences. At the Farmer Insurance Open in January, the former Cyclone was able to golf with future PGA Hall of Famer, Tiger Woods.
Kinney and the rest of the current Cyclone roster have been able to follow Baker during their own season.
"It is something that we have been following, it is cool to see him doing well," Kinney said.
Overall, Baker's highest finish this season was his tied-26th at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in late February. He currently ranks 172nd in the FedEx Cup standings and he will have plenty more opportunities to improve that score throughout the rest of the season.
Ricky Costello's Letter Jacket
Last week, Iowa State University celebrated the tradition of the Iowa State Letter as it presented the newest group of Cyclone letter winners with their Iowa State letter jackets. Junior Ricky Costello was the lone member of the men's golf team to receive his jacket.
In order to earn a jacket, you must start 40 to 50 percent of your team's events and keep a 3.0 GPA or higher.