Carson Schaake never played at Victoria National Golf Club prior to last year's Big Ten Championships.
Still, the then-sophomore exited the course as a conference champion.
Schaake will attempt to repeat as the Iowa men's golf team travels for the second year in a row to Victoria National Golf Club in Newburgh, Ind., for the Big Ten Championships starting Friday. The Hawkeyes placed second as a team in 2015. Illinois is the favorite to win the meet this year, holding the No. 2 ranking in the nation by Golfweek. Five other Big Ten teams are slotted in the top 60, with Iowa occupying the No. 60 spot.
Does Schaake's approach change since he is the returning winner?
"I don’t think it changes just because I won it last year," Schaake said. "The only thing that will change is maybe I’ll be a little more comfortable knowing that I’ve won the tournament before. I know the course better, I went into it last year having never seen the course. But I still need to go into it with an open mind. It could be a different golf course, different wind (conditions), different weather, new pins. That course could be a lot different than it was last year."
Entering the three-day tournament this weekend, Schaake is third on the team in scoring average for 18 holes at 73.33. Senior Nate Yankovich is first at 72.24 and junior Raymond Knoll is second at 73.10. Freshman Matthew Walker (74.38) and sophomore Sam Meuret (75.75) round out the starting five for Iowa, one of only two Big Ten programs (Illinois is the other) to advance to an NCAA Regional each of the last seven years.
The Hawkeyes have placed eighth, eighth, 12th, fifth and second at their five tournaments this spring. The second-place finish resulted from the Hawkeye Invitational last weekend at Finkbine Golf Course in Iowa City. Four players were below par on the final day for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa coach Tyler Stith is hopeful last weekend's performance can be a boost with postseason play on the horizon.
"We played well (at the Big Ten Championships) a year ago," Stith said. "We put a lot hard work in throughout the spring, guys continually improved each event we played at. We’re going to go in with a good game plan, confident approach, and try to get off to a good start like we did a year ago. The guys are excited and looking forward to the challenge."