Men’s golfer rewards coach’s gamble with standout season

by Ryan Schuster

For one of the few times in his 18-year career, Gophers men’s golf coach John Means gambled on a recruit last spring.
He signed freshman golfer Martin Le Mesurier to a national letter of intent without ever seeing him play. Armed with only the recommendation of a friend, background checks and numerous phone conversations with Le Mesurier, Means offered him a scholarship.
A year later, Means’ leap of faith has been rewarded handsomely. Le Mesurier has confidently stepped into the Gophers lineup and showed the promise Means anticipated when he recruited him. Le Mesurier has become one of the top golfers on the team, faster than anyone expected.
Le Mesurier had the third-best stroke average on the team during the fall season (73.9), and currently boasts the top average during the spring (73.96). He has also placed in the top 20 in six of the eight tournaments that he has competed in this season.
“We were hoping he would be able to help us some, but we weren’t sure exactly how much because it’s his first year, and he is a foreigner,” Means said. “I knew he could do that, but I wasn’t expecting him to do it right away.”
His play here has also attracted some attention back home in England where he was recently named to Great Britain’s Palmer Cup team. Le Mesurier will compete in the inaugural collegiate golf tournament this summer in Orlando, Fla.
Despite his impressive accomplishments in his first season, the native of Southampton, England had a difficult initial transition to Minnesota.
“It takes a while to sink in that you’re away from home for the first time,” Le Mesurier said. “I was preparing to come over for a year, and then suddenly I was here, and it was all a bit of a shock because it went by so fast.”
It took the 20-year-old graduate of Totten College almost a month to get used to living 4,000 miles away from home. Le Mesurier stayed with Gophers assistant coach Brad James for a month before school started, which helped him adjust to life in America.
“If (James) wouldn’t have done that, I probably would have gone home,” Le Mesurier said.
Since acclimating to his new surroundings, Le Mesurier has become more confident of himself, which has also helped his game.
“Martin has been the most consistent player on the team except for the last two trips,” Means said. “He struggled for a long time because he was concentrating on his hitting too much, but now we have his game back to where it was in the fall.”
Driving has been the best part of his golf game, but he has been working a lot on putting and approach shots lately. The team’s three week layoff has come at an opportune time for Le Mesurier.
The freshman struggled his last time out at the Marshall Invitational on April 11-12, with most of his difficulties coming on the greens. After a dismal putting performance, Le Mesurier finished in a tie for 59th place with a 19-over-par 232.
“My putting was so bad that I’d hit the green and two putt for par and then miss the green and take three to get down, so I’d make it a bogie,” Le Mesurier said after the Marshall Invitational. “That’s really where my game went — just from lack of confidence putting. I must have missed 15 or 20 short shots.”
Since then, Le Mesurier has done putting drills, worked individually with Means on his form, and he even went to a sports psychologist to try to improve his concentration when putting. The extra work appears to be paying off. Le Mesurier won the team’s qualifying tournament this week, having only one round over 72.
“When you play week in and week out, you don’t have a lot of time to make changes,” Means said. “Psychologists say it takes 21 days to make a change. Anytime you are making a swing change or any kind of a golf change, if you are thinking about it, you will not be effective. Now we’ve had three weeks to work on that, and he’s where he needs to be.”
Both Means and Le Mesurier are hoping that the additional practice time that Le Mesurier has spent over the past few weeks leads to an improved performance today and Saturday at the Kent Invitational in Ravenna, Ohio. No matter what the outcome is this weekend, however, it appears that Means’ roll of the dice a year ago has paid big dividends for the Gophers and Le Mesurier.
“He’s got all the tools,” Means said. “If he plays like he can play, he has the possibility of being an All-American three or four times, and we’ve never had that here before.”