U feels no pressure for Big Ten meet

by Ryan Schuster

The women’s golf team feels it has nothing to lose at the Big Ten championships, which run today through Sunday in East Lansing, Mich.
The team will be playing under considerably less pressure this weekend — their last competition of the spring season — than they have in the last month, as their play-off destiny has already been determined.
As expected, the Gophers were not picked to attend the NCAA East Regional on Monday by the NCAA selection committee.
“We’re all disappointed,” senior captain Carolyn Klecker said. “But, we knew a week ago that we most likely weren’t going to do it.”
Somewhat less anticipated, however, was the committee’s decision not to invite Gophers junior Amy Dahle, a 1996 All-Big Ten selection, who tied for 26th place at last year’s East Regional.
Each year the selection committee chooses three teams and one individual not on the top three squads from each of the five regions. This year the committee selected Big Ten teams Ohio State, Indiana and Purdue from the Midwest Region. Purdue’s bid as the third team took many people by surprise, as Missouri was ranked ahead of the Boilermakers in the latest Rolex Collegiate Golf Rankings and is generally considered to be a better team.
“It’s just a weird twist of things,” Gophers coach Kathy Williams said. “We could beat Purdue, but we couldn’t beat Missouri.”
Missouri is currently ranked 38th in the nation, Purdue is 42nd and the Gophers are 43rd. Minnesota and Purdue are separated by less than one point in the standings.
“We just didn’t play well when we needed to,” Williams said. “We had lots of chances to get ourselves in a good position, and unfortunately we didn’t come through when we needed to.”
Leticia Moses from Missouri was picked by the committee to compete at the regionals instead of Dahle. Williams said Dahle actually tied with Moses after the committee analyzed their initial data. Moses, however, had better performances and scoring averages when competing head-to-head against Dahle.
The selection committee took into account each golfer’s statistics during both the fall and spring seasons. After a solid fall, Dahle was starting to come into her own in the spring before she shot a 22-over-par 241 during the three-round Hawkeye Invitational in Iowa City, Iowa.
“If she would have had a little better performance the last time out, maybe she would have made it,” Williams said. “But who is to say it was one tournament. I can’t really put my finger on one performance.”
Dahle, a native of Red Lake Falls, Minn., was named the team’s Most Valuable Player and to the All-Big Ten academic team last year. As a freshman, she was the team’s Rookie of the Year.
After placing 22nd at the Big Tens her first year and fifth last year, Dahle is looking to have her best performance at the conference tournament this weekend.
“She struggled a little bit in the beginning of the season,” Williams said. “But for the most part, I think her swing is a little better than it was in the fall season. She has yet to really put her whole golf game together, and I really think she’s going to do it at Big Tens.”
Despite their best player getting overlooked for regionals, the Gophers were obviously more unhappy over not getting invited as a team.
“Our goal was to advance as a team, and anything beyond that is just individual,” Klecker said. “The way that regionals was picked kind of surprised everybody.”
Instead of being depressed over not making it to regionals, the team has resolved to put its best foot forward this weekend in its last performance of the season.
“We’re focusing on just being confident and believing in our abilities,” Williams said. “We just have not all come together as a team. We’re looking to put it all together. We have nothing to lose, and we’re not going to worry about all the other distractions.”