AMES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa State men's golf team is no longer an afterthought, not after snapping a 61-year NCAA tournament finals drought.
Fourth-year coach Andrew Tank and his team are headed to the championships later this week for the first time since 1953. Although the NCAA doesn't keep track, it's believed to be the longest drought between NCAA appearances in the history of men's golf.
They've been joined by the Iowa State women, who'll tee off in the NCAA Championship for the first time in Tulsa on Tuesday.
Iowa State is one of just 11 schools to put both of its teams in the NCAA meet. But the Cyclones and Washington are the only ones from a so-called northern state.
"It's a big step forward for us, for sure. I think it means more than we probably realize here in the short term. But it puts us on that national stage. It shows we can compete with the best teams," Tank said.
That's largely due to Tank, who has proven to be a perfect fit for Iowa State.
Tank grew up in nearby Des Moines and played at Minnesota. In 2002, he captained the Gophers team that won the NCAA title — the only northern-based team since 1979 to do so. Tank then spent eight years as an assistant at his alma mater before landing his first head coaching job at Iowa State, where he has expanded the program's reach well beyond the Midwest.
Tank leaned on the international connections he built while in Minneapolis to put together an initial recruiting class that included players from Spain, Australia and New Zealand.
Iowa State's diverse roster is led by Spaniard Scott Fernandez, who is the program's career leader in stroke average (72.15) and top-10 finishes with 21.
"I think it's a really cool aspect of the program. We've got players from central Iowa, Ohio. It's a little bit like studying abroad for them," Tank said. "It provides a pretty good atmosphere for the guys."
For women's coach Christie Martens, reaching the NCAA meet was the culmination of a decade-long struggle to build a contender.