Rask gets past shoulder injury to get back into tournaments

by C.J. Spang

For many golfers a separated shoulder would derail a career. But for redshirt sophomore Clayton Rask, it was just something to adjust to.

Rask has adjusted well to going from the best of the best in high school to just another golfer on Minnesota’s men’s golf team.

“It’s hard for some kids to go from being the best player then all of a sudden you’re a small fish in a big pond,” coach Brad James said. “He’s been able to adapt very well.”

And he made that transition with a shoulder at less than 100 percent.

As a freshman in high school, Rask separated his shoulder for the first time, but never did anything about it, despite having the shoulder pop out of place more than 20 times.

It apparently had little affect on his performance on the golf course, as Rask finished in the top five at the Minnesota state high school golf tournament four times.

“He was the best player in the state,” James said. “But it’s a whole new ballgame when you’re going from that to playing against some of the best players in the world.”

In high school he finished fifth as a freshman, second as a sophomore, fourth as a junior and fourth as a senior – one stroke behind the three-way tie for first.

But never having won the title isn’t something that bothers Rask.

“If you play a sport, your goal is to win the high school tournament, plain and simple,” Rask said. “There isn’t just high school, there’s definitely more than that.”

His first season at Minnesota, Rask played six rounds and averaged 75.7 strokes per round.

It wasn’t until after deciding to redshirt his sophomore season that Rask decided to have his shoulder looked at – at the suggestion of his roommates.

“I went and had it looked at and found out that it was absolutely horrible, torn to shreds,” Rask said. “The best thing for it was surgery, and I think it’s the best thing I’ve done.”

After recovering two months ahead of schedule, Rask was able to swing a club again – without any problems.

“It was just amazing,” Rask said, “knowing that I don’t have a restriction anymore and can just swing and not worry about it.”

He certainly didn’t have any problems last summer, winning the 2005 Minnesota Golf Association Golf Champions tournament, advancing to the sectional qualifying of the U.S. Open and qualifying for the U.S. Publinks Championship.

Rask has returned to the Minnesota lineup this season, setting a pair of career bests at the Big Ten/PAC 10 Challenge this fall with a third-round 70, finishing in a tie for 14th place.

But his contributions on the golf course might never have been if it weren’t for Rask’s family.

“That’s one of the big things why I stayed here in Minnesota,” Rask said. “Family is my lifeline, they’re my support, they’re my motivation. To have them around and experience things with me, it’s amazing.”

Rask said the closeness among his family begins in Ostego, where his uncle, grandparents and parents all live no farther than an 8-iron away.

They are constant figures at tournaments, following the team whenever possible, even if it means leaving at the drop of a hat.

During his freshman year, Rask failed to qualify to golf with the team in Texas over spring break.

While golfing in Florida he got a call from James who said he needed him to fly to Houston for the tournament.

When Rask’s family found out, they drove straight to Houston to catch him play one round.

Even James recognizes how much Rask’s family helps his game.

“It’s very important,” James said. “You’ve got someone there that you can trust, you feel comfortable with, you know that they’re going to be there whether you play good or bad.”

La’Cassie honored

Junior Bronson La’Cassie was named Big Ten co-Golfer of the Week after finishing in a tie for second at last weekend’s Fossum Invitational in East Lansing, Mich.

It is the third time in his career that La’Cassie has earned the honor and the third time this season a Minnesota golfer has been honored by the conference.

Big Ten Boat of the Week

Minnesota’s rowing team’s first varsity eight-boat won Big Ten Boat of the Week honors Tuesday.

The first varsity eight-boat of coxswain Megan Flannery and rowers Cheryl Wick, Berit Tomten, Laura Jatautaite, Vilma Stragyte, Jillian Casey, Jennifer Barnes, Erika Bartkute and Katie Biese defeated Boston University and Kansas by more than a boat length Saturday in races at Lake Phalen.

It marks the second time this season a Gophers shell has won Big Ten honors. The first varsity four-boat was named Boat of the Week on March 12 after defeating Louisville.

Minnesota hosts the Big Ten Championships on Saturday at Lake Phalen.