Despite a tough spring, Rask and Almstrom qualify for regionals

The two will tee off in Columbus, Ohio where Minn. won its 2002 national title.

The Minnesota men’s golf team will miss the NCAA championships for only the third time in the last 11 seasons, but two Gophers players still have a chance to represent their school in West Lafayette, Ind., as individual competitors.

First, however, senior Clayton Rask and junior Victor Almstrom must head to Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ohio, on May 15 for the NCAA central regional. They will join four other individuals from non-qualifying teams for the 54-hole event.

The six individuals in Ohio will be fighting for two spots in the NCAA championships, which are scheduled to be played at Purdue’s Kampen Course from May 28-31.

Rask’s and Almstrom’s selection to NCAA regional play is surprising, considering the struggles both experienced in spring play.

In the regular season, Rask notched only one top-20 finish, a tie for sixth at the Augusta State Invitational. His spring stroke average thus far is nearly three strokes higher than it was in the fall.

Almstrom’s spring regular season was equally trying. He recorded no better finish than a tie for 25th, and saw his average jump about a stroke and a half from fall to spring.

So it is likely their accomplishments in the fall and at the Big Ten championships that earned them individual berths to the postseason.

Almstrom’s first three tournaments of the fall were solo third, a tie for second and a tie for 10th, respectively. Rask never finished outside the top 20, and shared medalist honors in two straight tournaments: the Windon Memorial Classic and the Prestige at PGA West.

Their spring struggles, however, threatened to erase the memory of successful falls. That is, until the conference tournament.

Rask recovered from a terrible first day at the Big Ten championships that included an 81 and a 75 to land in ninth; carding a 68 and a 72 in his final two rounds.

Almstrom, on the other hand, played rock-solid golf through all four rounds, finishing with a five-over total and a tie for fifth.

Now, Minnesota’s pair of First Team All-Big Ten golfers will head to a course where they and the Gophers have seen quite a bit of success.

The Scarlet Course

Rask and Almstrom return to Ohio State’s Scarlet Course for the first time since reigning there as Big Ten Champions a year ago, and their familiarity with the course and their previous success on it should prove helpful.

Plus, both men have another bit of Minnesota men’s golf history on their side.

The Gophers’ only national championship was won in Columbus in 2002.

Now Rask and Almstrom must go through Columbus to try to realize their dreams of an individual national title.

“We really don’t want to go (to Ohio) and have that be (the end),” Rask said. “We’ve played the course before – we know what we have to do out there, so I think we just go out there and play our game and we’ll do just fine.”