Long break benefits Gophers

After four straight road tourneys, Minnesota has had three weeks off.

by Adam Fink

Stretching a span of four weeks beginning in late March, Minnesota’s men’s golf team was on the road – every weekend.

The Gophers left town for the Hall of Fame Invitational on March 21 and ended the four-tournament span with a third-place finish at The Intercollegiate in North Carolina on April 11.

No. 10 Minnesota covered more than 11,500 miles and spent the weekends away from the Twin Cities. The closest the Gophers got to Minneapolis was Houston.

So, saying the Gophers were a little tired is an understatement.

“We were a little worn down,” Gophers senior David Morgan said. “But we were never too tired to play golf.”

While that period was draining, the last three weeks have been refreshing, and the Gophers said they feel ready for the stretch run beginning with this weekend’s Fossum Invitational in nearby East Lansing, Mich.

The Gophers have not competed since returning from Chapel Hill, N.C. They have caught up on schoolwork and returned to nicer local weather, which allows them to practice outdoors.

The Gophers hit few balls off the tee the last two weeks as they worked on their short game and practiced with their wedges.

“We played the golf course, missing the greens on purpose,” coach Brad James said. “It gave a chance to work on the shorter aspects to the game.”

Senior Justin Smith said he believes the practice and rest has already started paying dividends.

“Anytime you go into a stretch we are about to start, you want to be as fresh as possible,” Smith said. “I think we are mentally and physically ready.”

Physically, the Gophers will also get a boost with the expected return of Ryan Paulson. The sophomore, who might compete as an individual, injured his shoulder after two rounds at the Puerto Rico Classic on Feb. 24.

Paulson finished his first complete round of golf last week and James expects him back.

“His shoulder was a little tender,” James said. “He will definitely go at Fossum.”

With the break behind them, Minnesota is ready for a final tuneup this weekend before the Big Ten Championships, which the Gophers have won the last two years.

In addition, the team won the 2002 NCAA title.

“It seems to be our nature to peak at the end of the season,” Morgan said. “We have been there before and have come out a winner.”

About Fossum

The Fossum Invitational, in its 37th year, was renamed in 1992 after Bruce Fossum, a longtime Michigan State coach.

The Spartans, who are hosting the event, are 11th in the latest Midwest district standings.

“We really need to finish high this week and take advantage of our home course,” Spartans coach Mark Hankins said in a statement. “Any time you have 13 other good teams coming to your home venue, you hope to win the tournament.”

The Gophers, who finished third at this event last year, will get a sneak peek at some of their Big Ten competition this weekend.

Overall, eight other Big Ten schools are taking part.

Gophers sign recruit

The Gophers added another golfer to their roster for next season.

The team announced Wednesday that Andy Paulson, a native of White Bear Lake, Minn., will join Minnesota for the 2004 season. Paulson is currently ranked the second-best player in the metro area.

“I have enjoyed watching Andy develop into a fine player at the high school level,” James said in a statement. “He has a lot of ability and the tools necessary to be successful at the collegiate level.”

Paulson is the second player to sign in the spring season. Patrick Datz, a South Carolina native, also signed this spring.

The Gophers lose two seniors this year.