The Iowa State men's golf squad continued the fall 2020 season this week by traveling to Houston to compete in the Big 12 Match Play Championship.
The Cyclones faced some of their toughest competition of the season so far, being part of a nine team field that included some of the top amateur golfers from around the country. In the three-day event, Iowa State posted an overall match record of 1-4 to finish in eighth place.
Same game, different rules
The key difference for the Cyclones between the Houston Oaks golf course and last week's competition at Colonial was the format of play they were dealing with — match play.
Compared to most other tournaments in golf, match play sees two teams of six players each facing off against one another across one 18-hole round. The rules are similar to individual play, with the player who shoots the lowest number of strokes per hole winning that hole. The goal is to win more number of holes than your opponent, with ties not being counted in the overall score.
Senior Tripp Kinney and junior Lachlan Barker posted identical individual records of 2-2-1 in match play. Barker, who came into the tournament finishing tied for 39th at the Colonial Invite, commented on the match play format.
"The other difference was the match play component," Barker said. "So we were playing more against an opponent head to head rather than the course itself."
Despite having a losing record in the overall standings, Iowa State had strong individual outings from their squad. Kinney led the field in eagles scored with three, with juniors Ricky Costello and Frank Lindwall finishing tied for second with two each. The Cyclones also had players in the top 10 for birdies and pars scored as well.
Iowa State saw steady improvement as the tournament continued, with more of the squad earning wins against higher-seeded opponents. Freshman Lukas Pany, who had not won a match heading into the consolation playoff against Texas Tech, pulled out a win against Red Raider junior Carl Didrik Meen Fosaas.
Pany led off the round with a tie on hole 15, but won hole 16 and never let go of his lead, ultimately winning the match by a score of 3 and 2. Texas Tech, who finished No. 3 in the country last season, also featured senior Sandy Scott, who is currently ranked No. 4 in the latest PGA Tour University Rankings. Scott defeated Barker in the final round of play by a score of 4 and 3.
Barker has also seen improvement in his game over his time at Iowa State, having posted 10 top 10 performances in over 30 tournaments played as a Cyclone. The Willunga, Australia, native is also on pace to break the school record in career stroke average, having entered this season with a lifetime average of 71.72.
Barker's role and play style has also seen change from when he first played for the Cyclones.
"As my time has gone on at Iowa State, my biggest improvement I have made is in my strategy and decision making," Barker said. "I used to take a lot of risk with shots that often cost me when there were smarter alternatives, and I think I'm much better at making the right decisions at the right time now than when I was a freshman."
Besides the level of talent they had to play against, the Cyclones had to overcome another element in the tournament — the course itself.
Golf is a unique sport in that each course players encounter comes with its own challenges to shoot the lowest number of strokes per hole. For Barker, this week's course presented a difficult test of the aquatic kind.
"Colonial was a very tight tree-lined course with small greens, so driving and accuracy was very important," Barker said. "At Houston Oaks, it was a lot wider off the tee, however there was a lot more water in play; that was the biggest challenge this week, dealing with water hazards as there were virtually none at Colonial."
Despite the performances of this weekend, Barker and Iowa State look to rebound by participating in Maridoe Collegiate Invitational in Carrollton, Texas. The Cyclones will once again face a broad field of talent, with 15 other teams taking part in the 54-hole tournament.
Barker is also looking for personal achievement at the Maridoe Golf Club, with the individual title in his sights.
"It's a course [Maridoe] that I've never seen and it's going to test my game plan," Barker said. "I think that everyone is back in the swing of things now and will be in a great position to play their best. I am personally looking forward to putting myself into contention to win the tournament, and I think that I am in a great position to do so."
Iowa State will continue its season at the Maridoe Invite on Oct. 16-20.