Gophers win a pair of home tournaments

by C.J. Spang

Despite losing their 11-shot lead after two rounds of the Gopher Invitational, Minnesota’s men’s golf team pulled out a thrilling victory Sunday over Washington.

Both the Gophers and Washington finished the tournament at Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata with a 19-over par 883, but the tie breaker was each team’s fifth golfer. Washington’s Zach Bixler had been disqualified in the second round for failing to sign his scorecard, giving Minnesota the victory.

However, the final hole was much more dramatic.

Standing in the middle of the 18th fairway, freshman Antti Ahokas needed to go shot-for-shot with Washington’s Alex Prugh to get his team the win.

“I thought I had to make a birdie,” Ahokas said. “I wasn’t sure about the rules for the tie breaker and thought it would go to a playoff.”

Both Ahokas and Prugh hit their second shots into the rough beyond the green and with the gallery holding its collective breath, Ahokas and Prugh both saved par.

“He’s the guy I’d like to have coming down to the last shot,” coach Brad James said. “He wanted to know, he said. ‘Coach, if I need to make a birdie you need to let me know.’

“So I told him on 18 that he needed to make a birdie and he said, ‘I’ll get it done.’ “

The Finnish freshman played well throughout the entire tournament, but it was his second round that had the crowd buzzing.

Ahokas fired a 6-under par 66, tying the course record held by the PGA’s Tim Herron.

When asked about that round, coach James had one word to describe it: “unbelievable.”

But it wasn’t just Ahokas who performed under pressure. Junior Niall Turner won his first individual title with a one-under par 215, beating out teammate Josh Persons and Georgia State’s Mark Haastrup, who both shot even par.

“Just to win in front of your home crowd in your home tournament,” Turner said. “That’s the win you really want to get.”

Also coming through in the clutch for the Gophers was sophomore Clayton Rask.

Rask carded a disappointing final round 6-over par 78, but kept his team in the hunt by birdieing four of the final five holes.

The entire team knows how important this victory was for them.

“Until now we’ve had only one or two guys playing well, but today we had like four of five of our guys in the top 10,” junior Bronson La’Cassie said. “It’s looking good for us and as long as we keep improving we’ll be fine.”

Women’s golf wins Minnesota Invitational

Minnesota’s women’s golf team overcame a four-shot deficit to win the Minnesota Invitational by six strokes over Montana.

Senior Sarah Butler, who didn’t qualify for last weekend’s Wisconsin Invitational, won her first individual title with a final round even-par 72. Freshman Suvi Mantyniemi took second, three shots behind Butler.

“I was excited to go out and play after not playing last week,” Butler said. “And to prove I have what it takes to travel.”