U looks to put it all together at regionals

by yan Schuster

The 1997 spring season has largely been a disappointment for the Gophers men’s golf team. Minnesota has failed to fulfill the promise it showed during the fall season and has been inconsistent during the last four months.
“We haven’t shown everybody what we can do yet,” Gophers coach John Means said. “They hit the ball last weekend so good. It’s the best I’ve ever seen in all the teams I’ve ever had, we just didn’t score well.”
After placing in the top five in all but one of its four fall meets, Minnesota has broken into the top five in only three of its six spring competitions. The team hopes to break out of its recent slump at the Big Ten championships today through Sunday at the Scarlet Golf Course in Columbus, Ohio.
One of the biggest problems for Minnesota this spring has been its anemic short game. The Gophers have teed off well all year but have struggled on the greens. Their confidence has taken several hits as well, as they have routinely finished below their goals this season.
“Human nature is … you dwell on the negative things,” Means said. “They think when they don’t make a putt that something fundamentally is wrong, and that’s not the case. If you have the wrong speed you can read it perfectly and stroke it perfectly, but because it’s too fast or too slow it won’t hold the line or go in.”
Minnesota was picked as one of the six teams in District IV to compete at the Central Regional May 15-17 at the Oklahoma Golf Course in Norman, Okla., on Tuesday. The Gophers are hoping that their inclusion into the playoffs and fourth-place finish out of 18 teams at the Kent Invitational last weekend will help to boost their confidence and get them out of their spring slump.
The team could salvage its season in a big way this weekend if they somehow find a way to win the Big Ten title. Like they have all season, the Gophers still believe they have enough talent to win the conference, despite their setbacks.
“By winning the Big Tens, that would make our season,” junior Rob Kerr said. “That was our first goal this year. As well as we played this fall, we can beat any team in the nation. We haven’t come close to that golf the rest of the year, but with all the hard work we’re putting in now, I think we can get that form back again. We know we’re good enough, it’s just a matter of doing it.”
Minnesota finished in a fourth-place tie with Michigan at last year’s Big Tens. Ohio State, Wisconsin and Indiana were in the top three spots. Northwestern, which has won its last four tournaments in a row, and No. 15 Ohio State, which will be competing on its home turf, will be the favorites this weekend. Michigan, Minnesota and Indiana are considered long shots for the conference crown.
If the Gophers are to have any chance of winning or placing well at the Big Tens this weekend, they will need to present a better putting performance, more confident play, and the talent of some of their older players.
“The biggest key for us is we need some leadership from our older players,” Means said. “We need Mark Halverson and Rob Kerr to step up to the plate and use their experience and take us where we need to go.”