By Grant Wall
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
The offseason for golf comes at a perfect time for those who are playing at the collegiate level. Because of that, you can add Iowa State golfer Ben Herrera to the list of athletes who benefited from the offseason.
With both classes and the golf season ending around the same time, golf student-athletes find themselves with plenty of time to work on their game – just as the weather is getting the nicest for the outdoor sport. With his time off from class and the Iowa State team, Herrera did what many other amateur golfers do during the summer. He played more golf.
Herrera claimed the Iowa Masters, one of the most prestigious amateur titles in the state, and participated in the US Amateur last summer. The experiences gave him a renewed sense of confidence.
“I’ve always been a confident player,” Herrera said. “I’m not afraid to play with anybody. When you have success and win and are able to play with some really good players, your confidence builds. Now I expect to go out and play well every time.”
That confidence has led to consistency, which has made Herrera a leader on a young Iowa State squad.
He currently leads the team in stroke average at 72.81 shots per round. Rounds of 70-69-70 helped him to a tie for sixth at the Wolverine Invitational in September, and he has finished out of the top 30 only twice this season.
“I have a much better mindset,” he said. “I’ve been staying a lot more clam on the course and not letting any bad things get in my way. My mental approach is a lot better and that’s helped me be more consistent.”
His consistent play has helped him become more of a team leader off the course as well.
“I’ve tried to set a good example and do things right,” Herrera said. “I’ve tried to be more responsible off the course and away from golf. The guys on the team have seen it work, and it’s proof that if you want to be successful you have to do things right.”
That leadership role took time to develop as Herrera came in as an upperclassmen last season, his first year with the Cyclones. Herrera originally committed to Wisconsin and spent the 2005-06 season with the Badgers. His situation at Wisconsin wasn’t quite the right fit, and the Urbandale, Iowa, native transferred to Iowa State.
“He wanted to be closer to home,” ISU golf coach Jay Horton said. “He felt that he should be playing up there and he wasn’t getting the opportunities. He wanted to come to a place where he could play and have some success. He contacted me and I knew him and had recruited him out of high school. When I heard of his interest in coming to Iowa State, I was all for it, I couldn’t wait to get him here. I’ve been excited ever since he joined us.”
After sitting out a season as a transfer, Herrera came out strong. He had two top-10 performances, and three more top-20 finishes in 2007-08, which included a tie for 13th at the Big 12 Championship.
Now Herrera is gearing up for more post-season success. After the Iowa State schedule ends, he will head out to test his game at the top levels of amateur golf. Herrera said he plans to play more nationally. He will still compete in some events around the state of Iowa, but will take his game on the road more often.
Along with another trip to the U.S. Amateur, Herrera is hoping to qualify for the prestigious Western Amateur and the Porter Cup, along with a handful of other events.
“This allows me to get out and play with the best amateurs in the world. Testing yourself against the best is what you want to do,” Herrera said.
Being able to focus only on golf is a huge benefit for college golfers.
“Summertime is when they can really improve because they don’t have to go to class,” Horton said. “They can just go stand on the range and play golf all day.”
Horton has seen the fruits of Herrera’s summer hard work.
“Being able to qualify for the US Amateur and play with the best there, winning the Iowa Masters, he had a lot of success and was consistent on the golf course. That has motivated him. He wants to keep pushing his game to play against the best.”