Gophers stumble out of gate again

Minnesota finished in 7th place at the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational.

by John Hageman

The Minnesota womenâÄôs golf team came into its final tournament before the Big Ten championships with some of the Gophers best golf in history still fresh in their mind. But the women may need to play better in the opening round if they want to have a chance against their conference foes. Minnesota came into the third and final round Sunday at the Lady Buckeye Spring Invite in seventh place , and thatâÄôs where they would finish out the tournament. The Gophers shot a 98-over par 962 at Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ohio, but improved their score in each round . Host Ohio State won the event, shooting a 55-over 919, fending off a tournament-best 302 in the final round by runner-up Michigan . Minnesota junior Teresa Puga shot a 20-over 236 for a tie in 10th place, the sixth time she has landed in the top 10 this season. Puga was all alone in fifth place going into the third round but stumbled and had her worst round of the tournament Sunday at 9-over. Fellow junior Samantha Sommers finished just behind Puga in a tie for 15th by shooting a 21-over 237. There was a wide gap between the top two Gophers and the rest of the team, however, as junior Mary Narzisi finished in a tie for 51st by shooting a 33-over 249. Junior Michele Edlin f ollowed, shooting a 36-over 252 for a tie for 56th. EdlinâÄôs play over the weekend was the definition of consistent, as she shot a 12-over 84 in each round. Senior Christine Herzog dropped 15 spots in the final round to land in a tie for 58th by shooting a 37-over 253. Freshman Jackie Shepherd finished one stroke behind Herzog and all alone in 61st overall. Shepherd struggled out of the gate, shooting a 17-over and a 16-over in the first two rounds, but came back in the final round with a 5-over to move up seven spots. Michigan StateâÄôs Laura Kueny took medalist honors by shooting an 11-over 227 including a tournament-best 73 in the final round to edge Ohio StateâÄôs Rachel Rohanna by one stroke . The Gophers will be back at it on Friday for the Big Ten championships in Madison, Wis . The team will see some familiar faces next weekend, as four Big Ten squads finished ahead of them this past weekend. âÄúI think these girls are going to be ready to play,âÄù Minnesota associate head coach Kristine Wessinger said. âÄúWeâÄôre just going to take it one day at a time and not focus so much on the results and focus on the things we can control.âÄù Minnesota has historically not had much luck at the Big Ten championships. Since 2006, the Gophers have finished last twice in the Big Ten championships, and their best performance in that span was a tie for eighth place in 2008. But with four top-five finishes in seven tournaments this spring season, the Gophers will look to make a splash in a tournament they have not won since 1989. The GophersâÄô finish at the Big Ten championships may help decide if they are invited to an NCAA regional qualifier. Currently, the Gophers are ranked No. 57 by Golfweek , and 72 teams in the country will be invited to regionals . Puga said the Gophers will try to approach their next tournament like any other, even if it means the difference between playing in the NCAA tournament and their season ending. Wessinger added that if the team plays well, they will have nothing to worry about. âÄúAt this point, we just have to play well,âÄù Wessinger said. âÄúWeâÄôre not even worried about regionals âĦ Obviously we want to make it to regionals, and if we play well, we should be there.âÄù