Gophers begin at Wash. tourney

by Bridget Haeg

After losing an NCAA Championship berth last spring by one stroke, Minnesota’s men’s golf team heads into its first action of the fall well aware of its past.

“It’s a good wake-up call for the players,” coach Brad James said.

That finish makes the team even more focused this year, senior Ben Greve said.

“That was a very disappointing finish for us last year,” Greve said. “That was probably the worst we played all year.”

The team competes in its first tournament of the year today and Tuesday at the Husky Invitational in Bremerton, Wash.

The first match of the fall will feature a young lineup, but assistant coach Andrew Tank said he thinks this inexperience might help their progress.

“I’m confident that they’re going to push each other,” Tank said. “It’s going to be competitive to see who makes the starting lineup. I can tell that already.”

Senior Greve, juniors Ryan Paulson and Josh Persons, sophomores Niall Turner and Bronson La’Cassie, and redshirt freshman Michael Fiedler make up today’s lineup.

Greve, who finished tied for 30th at last spring’s NCAA Central Regional, has “really solidified his spot” in the lineup, James said.

Persons, a transfer from Kansas State, brings some college golf experience to the team but lacks familiarity with James’ coaching and hasn’t played with his Gophers teammates, Tank said.

Turner, a native of Cork, Ireland, has never seen a college golf tournament in the United States before.

James said Fiedler had to make swing changes but had a great summer.

“I’m looking forward to watching him compete Ö he deserves a spot,” James said.

The fall season should help get the Gophers the experience they need to help them in the spring tournaments.

James said he looks for the team to improve on its short game and on its course management decisions this fall.

La’Cassie, for one, has worked to improve this part of his game.

“I just used to go about it in my own way,” he said.

“But now my course management has improved a bit.”

La’Cassie comes off a successful first year of college play, during which, among other achievements, he was named Big Ten freshman of the year and received an honorable mention All-American nod.

His summer game triumphed, too, as he advanced to the second round of the U.S. Amateur.

Golf World’s College Preview – along with ranking Minnesota 23rd – named him one of the top 50 male players to watch this year.

But aside from La’Cassie, today and tomorrow in Washington state will be all about building a team.