Golfers blow by field

by Jim Schortemeyer

If anyone ever doubted the Minnesota men’s golf team could take four weeks off and come back competitive, the Gophers proved them wrong this weekend.
The well-rested and 10th-ranked Gophers blew past the field at the Wolverine Invitational for a 17-stroke victory in Ann Arbor, Mich.
While the win did come over 15th-ranked Northwestern, Minnesota coach John Means said he wasn’t too impressed by the strength of the tournament Saturday night. The Gophers were already up by 17 strokes after 36 holes.
“After you get past the first couple teams, the field isn’t very good,” Means said. “Illinois isn’t here — they have a pretty good squad — and Purdue. If they were here we’d still be in the lead, but I don’t know if it’d be by 17 strokes.”
Other than Minnesota and Northwestern, no Big Ten team is ranked in the top 50.
The breakaway came thanks to the play of Minnesota’s top three golfers. Sophomore James McLean shot a course-record 63 Saturday to finish at 10 under par for the day, four strokes ahead of teammate Adam Dooley. Junior Martin LeMesurier was tied for 10th after the first day.
On Sunday, Dooley fell to fourth place while LeMesurier made it up to second. McLean won the Invitational by nine strokes, at 11 under par.
Given the 55th-place finish Dooley posted just before the four-week layoff, he was especially happy with his improved play.
“That was pretty ugly,” Dooley said of his finish four weeks ago. “But this weekend went really well. I know the course, everybody’s played this course before. I did well here last year.”
The Gophers tuned up for the weekend with a five-round intrasquad tournament last week, which Means says only partly helped his team prepare for a return to action.
“For the guys, some take it seriously and some don’t,” Means said. “But when you put up the green flag, you find out who’s ready to go.”
When the Gophers got the green flag, it was Means’ first chance to see how his team would respond to the long layoff. The coach said he was especially happy with his golfers’ touch around the greens, but was largely unimpressed with the play of Jeff Barney and Bill Thompson, who finished tied for 50th.
While the meet was an easy win for Minnesota, it was important for two reasons: most of the teams in the upcoming Big Ten tournament were there, and the team was starting to get rusty after four weeks of downtime.
“I think it was fairly important,” Dooley said. “For myself, I didn’t know where I was. I’d been playing poorly for a while, then I played well a few days before we left.
“It went well.”