Gophers finish seventh

Junior Jon DuToit finished 2-0-1 in Big Ten match play in Florida.

by Brad Bobel

The last time Minnesota faced the rest of the conference, it took home the Big Ten championship title.

The result was different this time, as the Gophers finished seventh in Big Ten match play in Palm Coast, Fla.

 “All [the] matches were very close,” head coach John Carlson said. “[Match play] provides us a way to handle the nerves when stroke play starts.”

Some Gophers played all four rounds — 72 holes — which is a lot for any type of player, amateur or professional.

Sophomore Jose Mendez and freshman Rúnar Arnórsson did just that, and two other Gophers played 54 holes.

“Preparation starts in November to be able to play 72,” Carlson said. “They worked hard in the gym and were physically and mentally ready to go.”

Minnesota, the 11th seed, started out match play with an upset over 6th-seeded Penn State, winning 4-1.

The Gophers used the practice round to familiarize themselves with the course.

“Practice rounds are huge for college kids, even though they don’t enjoy it as much,” Carlson said. “It prepares the players, makes them more comfortable and helps them figure out the clubs they need.”

They moved on and faced the third seed, Iowa, in the next match, but the Hawkeyes were too much, coming out on top 3-1-1.

The loss sent Minnesota to the consolation bracket to face Northwestern, where they met the same fate.

After the Iowa match, it switched to the oceanside course. The practice round was played on the other course, so its last two matches were played a course it hadn’t prepared for.

“Practice rounds teach you what clubs you want to hit, and having no practice round on the oceanside course wasn’t easy,” Mendez said.

The two straight losses brought the Gophers to the 7th place match against Ohio State, where they won 3-2.

The oceanside course offered some beautiful views, but the course itself was difficult off the tee.

“Both sides have dangers, which makes the fairways very small,” Mendez said.

Mendez, the team’s top golfer, finished match play 3-1 and junior Jon DuToit finished 2-0-1 for the two best records on the team.

“Mendez had some tough matches. He always goes against the top team’s players, but he scored under par on his first couple rounds,” Carlson said.

With only two upperclassmen on the team, the Gophers need contributions from their developing golfers.

“We’re young, but very talented and the experience showed,” Carlson said. “I saw some shots today that I haven’t seen in a while.”