CEDAR RAPIDS — Alex Schaake is passionate about golf.
He had plenty of influences. His late paternal grandfather ushered him to the course and taught him some of the game at a young age. His father, Ryan, was a solid golfer until he couldn’t devote any more time to it. Even other grandparents are regulars in weekly leagues.
The biggest impact came from his older brother, Carson.
“I learned most of my game, growing up until I was 12 years old, from my brother,” Schaake said. “Just playing with him at the course very single day. Eventually, we both went to the same swing coach.”
It came as no surprise when Schaake’s path led to the University of Iowa, following the one blazed by his older sibling, who was the 2015 Big Ten titlist for the Hawkeyes as a sophomore. It's a feat that Alex Schaake would like to replicate during his sophomore season.
“He’s a good person to follow in his footsteps,” Schaake said. “That’s the goal.”
The older Schaake started that year with five top-20 finishes in the fall. Something Alex wasn’t able to do but he moved closer with a runner-up finish Tuesday at the Golfweek Conference Challenge at Cedar Rapids Country Club.
“I think I’m getting closer and closer to where my game needs to be but I just need to clean up those messy mistakes. That’s what it’s going to take to win (and) what it’s going to take for the team to win.”
Their college careers overlapped in Iowa City with Carson graduating after last season. The two were part of the same Hawkeye lineup. Alex played in seven tournaments as a freshman, averaging a little more than 75 strokes per round.
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“I think Alex is the beneficiary of having an older brother like Carson, who was extremely competitive and has always pushed and motivated him,” Iowa Coach Tyler Stith said. “He is someone to look up to and learn from.”
The brother duo still is tight. They continue to play together, even though the older Schaake has embarked on a pro career, making an appearance at the 2015 PGA John Deere Classic. Expect them to be at the other's events next spring and summer.
“Over the summer, I played with him almost every day or practiced,” Schaake said. “He’s a pro now but he still has time for me. We still see our swing coach with each other every once in a while.”
Schaake fired a 4-under 68 in the final round Tuesday, recording a three-day total of 208. He helped the Hawkeyes to second in the team standings with 849, exchanging leads and finishing two strokes back of team champ North Carolina State.
“We’re a little disappointed because we came so close,” Stith said. “We came up a little short, but it was a big improvement over last week. The effort the last three days was very good.”
Schaake capped his round with a 4-foot birdie putt, which was the last of six for the round.
“To make that putt on top of it is a pretty good feeling,” Schaake said. “Overall, I played good. I made some sloppy mistakes.
“Our team played really well. Coming off a poor finish last week, I’m happy with how we played this week.”
The Hawkeyes have reached the postseason in nine straight seasons. They have a strong chance to make that a double-digit stretch, looking for a fourth trip to the NCAA Championships. Schaake will be a key contributor.
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“They are a fun group to be around and coach,” Stith said. “They work really hard and put in the time.
“(Schaake) played in almost every tournament as a freshman and was one of the best freshmen in the Big Ten. He’s one of our best players and expect him to be a big part of our success.”
The Hawkeyes have a strong nucleus of players to continue recent success that has seen them ascend up the NCAA Division I ranks. Competition during practice has prepared them for pressure situations in tournaments, like Schaake’s final 4-foot putt.
All five placed in the top 30 of the 75-player field. Ryoto Furuya tied for 12th. Sam Meuret and Matt Walker were tied for 16th and 19th, respectively. Benton Weinberg scored for the final round, shooting even par.
“You have to have some talent on the team, but our team chemistry is higher than it’s ever been,” Schaake said. “It is so fun going to practice. I think we all enjoy the competition.”
Iowa won its first tournament under Stith at this event in 2015. The event had been held at Spirit Hollow Golf course in Burlington previously. When the relationship with Spirit Hollow ended, they had the chance to move it closer to Iowa City. CRCC embraced the opportunity to host in front of a modest and supportive group of spectators.
“They opened their arms and brought this tournament here,” said Stith, who is in his fourth year leading the Hawkeyes. “We feel very fortunate to host at such a wonderful venue and showcase one of the best golf courses in the Midwest.”
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