By Sean Bock
The Iowa women’s golf team will get things rolling for the 2017-18 season at the Branch Lawn Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico, today and Tuesday.
The first and second rounds are set to begin at 8:30 a.m. today and the final round will start at the same time on Tuesday.
The Hawkeyes will compete in a 17-team field, which includes six top-25 teams: No. 21 Colorado, No. 19 Oklahoma State, No. 18 Texas, No. 16 Arizona, No. 8 Northwestern, and No. 1 Stanford.
“We’re going to be playing the best, week in week out,” head coach Megan Menzel said. “So we are really trying to improve our strength of schedule to get us to great golf courses and great fields.”
Three Iowa golfers were named to the preseason All-Big Ten team: seniors Jessica Ip and Morgan Kukla and sophomore Sophie Liu.
“I was a little bit surprised actually,” Kukla said. “It got me really excited and pumped up for the season.”
With so much talent returning, there’s a certain swagger the Hawkeyes possess.
Ip, one of Iowa’s veterans, isn’t concerned about all the hype that comes with high expectations.
“I try not to have any expectations,” she said. “I think it puts a little more pressure. But it’s definitely something in the back of my mind to use as motivation going into this tournament and get a good start.”
The Hawkeyes will have their hands full in the first week.
But with the difficult schedule to start the season, there is plenty of optimism on the team.
“These are really, really strong fields,” Kukla said. “They’re probably the strongest I’ve seen since I’ve been at Iowa. And we know that there are a lot of good teams there, and we have to shoot our best to win, but we can definitely do it. So I think it’s really good to prepare us, because we’re facing the best in the country consistently. If we make it in the top half of the field, we know it’ll set us up well for NCAA regionals.”
The tournament takes place at the New Mexico Championship Course.
The course is a Par 72, 7,248 yards, and is known for its long and wide fairways surrounded by desert sand.
“It’s important for us to challenge ourselves,” Menzel said. “Play against the best [and] figure out what we need to do to compete and finish well.”
The Hawkeyes will be all over the country this fall. After New Mexico, Iowa will travel to Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky to conclude the fall season.
This schedule gives the Hawkeyes the opportunity to compete against the best of the best, which will give them an edge once the NCAA Tournament arrives.
“This is our year to make it to regionals,” Kukla said. “We have a lot of strong freshmen coming in. We’ve got some senior leadership back, and every class is just really strong. We’re all qualified really well, and we’re just gearing up and doing our thing, and I know as soon as we get out there, we’re just going to shoot our numbers.”