Hannah Strickland, Daily File Photo
Gophers senior Erik Van Rooyen shot 1-over par to finish tied for second at the Big Ten men’s golf championships during the weekend.
Van Rooyen used a 2-under-par opening round and an even-par closing round to lead Minnesota while recording his personal-best finish at the tournament.
The Gophers shot 20-over par to finish second out of 12 teams, their best finish at the event since 2009. But they needed to win the event to potentially keep their season alive.
Illinois edged Minnesota by nine strokes, pulling away late in the final round to win its fourth consecutive title.
Minnesota coach John Carlson said he knew his team’s narrow deficit as the Gophers and Illini played their final holes.
He said Minnesota cut the lead to two strokes with four holes left.
“We gave them our best shot this weekend,” Carlson said, “and they certainly had to respond with their best game also.”
Illinois played the final holes, especially the 18th hole, “in championship fashion,” he said.
Minnesota had three golfers finish in the top 12.
Van Rooyen used his driver and short game to position himself for an individual title, Carlson said. He was among the tournament leaders in birdies made.
“He really controlled his trajectory and his flight today with his golf ball,” Carlson said.
Jon DuToit finished tied for eighth place, six shots behind Van Rooyen. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year candidate had sat out of the lineup the past two weeks to rest his wrist.
“He came out and played great this week,” Carlson said. “He looks like a seasoned [veteran] when he plays. He walks around, he’s very confident in his ability, and he should be.”
DuToit rebounded from a 6-over-par performance Friday by shooting 2-over par in the final two rounds.
Senior Robert Bell finished 12th, one shot behind DuToit. His second- and third-round scores of 1-over par and 2-under par, respectively, propelled the Gophers on Friday and Saturday.
“[Robert] putted better than probably anyone this week, anyone in the field,” Carlson said.
Carlson said entering the weekend that he thought Minnesota could win the tournament.
“We were certainly peaking at the right time of the year to come in here and steal a Big Ten championship,” he said.
Minnesota will not advance to an NCAA regional because its record is below .500. Carlson said the team needed to win the tournament to have a chance.
Van Rooyen will advance individually, and DuToit will wait until regionals are announced May 7 to learn his fate.
Carlson said he was proud to see his team challenge for the title.
“Finishing second is a huge step in the right direction for our program,” he said.