Fourth-place finish doesn’t cut it for women’s golf

by Ryan Schuster

Junior Amy Dahle turned in another strong performance over the weekend, carrying the Gophers women’s golf team on her shoulders Saturday and Sunday at the Indiana Invitational in Bloomington, Ind.
Dahle’s 6-over-par 154 score during the two day meet propelled her into a three-way tie for fifth place at the IU Golf Course.
The No. 17 Gophers finished in a tie with Iowa for fourth place out of 17 teams, scoring a two-round 649. Their score was 26 points higher than first place Ohio State’s tally. This weekend marked the second time in the team’s first three competitions that it has placed in the top five overall. Minnesota has also finished in the top 10 of all three meets so far this year.
Despite the Gophers’ solid start to their spring season and good showing over the weekend, what was expected to be the team’s strong suit entering the season — experience and balance — almost turned out to be their Achilles’ heel in Indiana.
As expected, Dahle, a 1996 All-Big Ten selection and the only Gopher to advance to regionals last year, once again put on an impressive show at the Indiana Invitational. The other four golfers, who entered the meet collectively averaging as many top five finishes (2) as Dahle during the fall and beginning of the spring season, had a more difficult time.
Sophomore Melanie Lepp and junior Keri Sawvell, Minnesota’s second-best finishers at the invite, finished 17-over-par in a four-way tie for 31st place. They were a distant 11 strokes behind Dahle. Seniors Cathy Lindblad and Carolyn Klecker were 39th and 52nd, respectively. Scores from the top four golfers on each team contributed points to their teams.
It was the uncharacteristically poor performance of Klecker that was the most surprising. The River Falls, Wis., native is in the midst of her best season as a Gopher and has the second-lowest average on the team behind Dahle.
Klecker and her teammates’ problems finding their strokes have come at a particularly inopportune time for the Gophers. With only one meet left in the regular season, Minnesota is locked in a tight battle for the third and final slot for the NCAA regionals. Ohio State, Indiana and Missouri, the three teams that finished ahead of the Gophers this weekend, are all in Minnesota’s region and all three are currently ranked ahead of the Gophers.
Despite finishing a strong fourth place out of 17 teams at the Indiana Invitational, Minnesota will need an even better performance at the Iowa Invitational next weekend. Unless the Gophers can pass Missouri for third place in the next three weeks, they will find themselves on the outside looking in on the playoffs.