U men’s golfers look to fix problems at NCAAs

by Ryan Schuster

Not only could this weekend’s NCAA regionals be the last tournament of the season for the men’s golf team, it could also signal the end of senior golfer Mark Halverson’s Gophers career.
For the last four years, Halverson has been a permanent fixture in Minnesota’s lineup. He has only missed two tournaments during his last three years with the team.
Halverson’s longevity and notoriety on the team are more products of his work ethic than natural ability. The team captain has played solidly during his career at Minnesota and entered this season as the team’s No. 2 golfer behind All-American Rob Kerr. But Halverson’s senior season has largely been a disappointment.
He has only placed in the top five of two tournaments and has failed to break into the top 10 since September. For Minnesota to place in the top 10 out of 21 teams today through Saturday and advance to the NCAA championships June 1-7 in Chicago, it will need more contributions from the team’s more-experienced players, especially Halverson and Kerr.
While Halverson has had a down year, Kerr has been inconsistent. Just as in his two previous years with the team, Kerr started out the fall season strong and stumbled in the spring.
“Rob has always played well in the fall,” Means said. “It takes him a little while to get going in the springtime.”
Kerr’s spring slump has been prolonged this year, however. After winning the ReliaStar Collegiate Invitational and consistently placing among the top 20 golfers during the fall, the junior from Pointe Claire, Canada has only finished in the top 10 once this spring.
“I was kind of hoping that one or two of the guys would have come forward and made themselves the top player in the Big Ten, or been pushed for that spot,” coach John Means said before the Big Tens. “And that hasn’t happened.”
Means’ hope was fulfilled last weekend, from an unexpected source, when freshman Martin Le Mesurier placed fourth at the conference championships, leading the team to a fifth-place finish.
Le Mesurier and sophomore Bill Thompson have become the team’s top two golfers this spring as a result of Kerr’s and Halverson’s struggles.
Coming into the season Le Mesurier was one of the least likely candidates to finish in the top five at Big Tens. But thanks to rapid improvement during his first year, he has become the team’s most consistent performer.
“He wasn’t counted on being there,” Means said. “He just kind of put himself in that position.”
Le Mesurier has placed first on the team in five of the Gophers’ six competitions this spring. He has been named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and was also included on the All-Big Ten team.
Another pleasant surprise this spring has been the inspired play of Thompson, who has filled the No. 2 spot on the team for Halverson. Thompson has placed in the top 20 five times this season, including a 13th-place finish last weekend at Big Tens.
After having an up and down spring, the Gophers are hoping for improved performances from Halverson and Kerr to prolong their season, and Halverson’s collegiate career, a few more weeks.