Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Consistency Key For Huskers Entering Home Tourney

By Brian Rosenthal

Tanner Owen appreciates consistency in the game of golf, so it’s no wonder he’s happy with how first-year coach Mark Hankins has implemented more structure within the Nebraska program.

From doing the same workouts to eating the same foods to wearing the same shoes every tournament, Owen gives two thumbs up.

“With the consistency of our schedule, consistency on practice, consistency of workouts, it’s helped me tremendously,” said Owen, a junior from Parkville, Missouri. “I’ve become a better player. I enjoy spending an extra 30 minutes, an hour, out on the golf course whenever I need to. I can push farther.”

Is it safe to say Owen is having more fun?

“I’m definitely having a lot more fun,” Owen said. “I mean, it’s easy to have fun when you’re shooting better scores and you’re competing. A lot of the extra hard work has gone into shooting better scores.

“Whenever you do something that you enjoy, it’s definitely easier to have fun with it. And before, sometimes it was hard to enjoy it all the time.”

Owen and his teammates have an opportunity to show their improvements to local fans on Saturday, when Nebraska hosts the Git-R-Done Invitational at Firethorn Golf Club in Lincoln. It’s Nebraska’s first home meet since 2005.

Yet, another change Hankins has brought to the program.

“I respect the guy 100 percent,” Owen said. “He’s brought a lot of positive changes.”

The six-team tournament will consist of two rounds on Saturday. The first round will begin with a shotgun start at 9 a.m., while round two will get underway at 12:30 p.m. The second round will be continuous play.

Arkansas, Creighton, Drake, Nebraska-Omaha and South Dakota State will join the Huskers in the field. Each team will have five-player lineups, with the lowest four scores counted each round. An additional 17 individuals will also compete in the tournament, making a 47-player field.

A home tournament not only exposes Nebraska golf to area fans and players, but it also helps boost Nebraska’s schedule, a critical element in qualifying for postseason play.

“When you’re able to invite a bunch of teams to your home event,” Hankins said, “there is some reciprocation, and you can get into some better tournaments.”

Playing in high quality tournaments helps Nebraska improve its schedule and, in turn, its national ranking. Earning an at-large bid to postseason competition requires a national ranking in the top 60.

“You can’t go play a terrible schedule,” Hankins said, “and win enough and be ranked high enough to go to regionals.”

That’s why Hankins went to work immediately on improving Nebraska’s schedule. It’s worked, too. GolfWeek credits Nebraska for having the third most competitive schedule in the Big Ten.

Yes, Hankins realizes the disadvantage of playing so many new courses this year, but notes Nebraska will return to most of those courses next year, and underclassmen will have more familiarity.

Again, consistency is key.

“We do the same things, we prepare the same way,” Owen said. “The workout regime has changed, which has prepared us. We’re the last team to get tired on a 36-hole tournament. We’ve been running a lot more. Nutrition has been better on trips. It’s been great.”

Owen (pictured above) is coming off Big Ten Golfer of the Week honors after he shot a 54-hole score of 214 to tie for 19th in a field of 132 golfers at The Goodwin in Palo Alto, California. Entering the tournament, Owen said he worked hard on improving his short game.

“I put in a lot of time with coach and a lot of extra time around the greens to get ready for Stanford, and I’d say it’s definitely one of my strengths,” Owen said, “but I’m also hitting a lot of greens right now. I expect to get up and down. Whenever I miss a green it’s not in my mind, ‘OK, that’s a bogey.’ I expect to get up and down, and I did so in the last tournament.”

Hankins said Owen continues to improve and has been the team’s leader. Nebraska has also counted heavily on two in-state graduate transfers, Mitch Klooz of Laurel and Jay Cottam of Hebron. They helped the Huskers, seeded 14th, place fourth at Big Ten Match Play, where Nebraska had never placed higher than ninth since joining the league in 2011.

“We prepared extremely well for that tournament,” Hankins said. “We want to get that confidence, and we want to have that going when we get to the postseason.”

Hankins expects a confident team on Saturday but also warns his players of potential distractions. Preparation will be different, and players will need to be flexible with changes in routine.

“Playing on your home golf course, you have to be careful to not take it for granted,” Hankins said. “You have to respect your home golf course.”

Owen said playing a course with familiar greens and familiar pins will give him confidence, but also notes Firethorn can be challenging, especially on a windy day.

“Coming out and knowing what we’re going to come out and play is huge, especially on a golf course that can be very damaging to a score,” Owen said.

“I think a tournament like this, the mentality is, ‘It’s mine to lose. They’re coming to me.’ I have a game plan that’s already set before they get here. As long as I can play it shot by shot, hole by hole, I think I’ve got a good chance.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

MORE NEWS

More News Sponsor - First National Bank

TICKETS

Tickets Sponsor - StubHub