Golfers fall to seventh in Gopher Invitational

Nate Gotlieb

In his first event as Director of Golf, John Harris was pleased with everything but the outcome for the Gophers. The menâÄôs golf team jumped to second place after the first round Sunday, but struggled later Sunday as well as in the final round Monday, finishing in seventh at 37-over-par. After three Minnesota golfers finished under par Sunday, no golfer could manage to break par on a warm but blustery final round Monday morning. Louisiana State finished five-over to win the tournament, followed by Kent State, Arkansas and Charlotte. IowaâÄôs sixth-place finish was the highest of any Big Ten team at Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata. âÄúSpring Hill was a fantastic venue,âÄù Harris said. âÄúâĦThe weather was fantastic, and we had a lot of support from the alumni, and the boosters and a lot of support from the membership at Spring Hill. It was a smashing success; just our guys didnâÄôt play as well as we would have liked.âÄù Harris, a former pro in his first coaching gig, said the team needs to particularly improve in the short game, course management and mental preparation. âÄúThey know how to hit the shots but need to learn how to play the game,âÄù said Harris. While the Champions Tour veteran brings a lifetime of his own competitive golf experience to his new job, Harris used the tournament to learn about his new team. âÄúWe learned about our guys, and we learned a little bit about what we have to work onâĦThe positive is that we now have kind of a starting point. WeâÄôre enthused to get to work and try to improve,âÄù Harris said. Leading the Gophers were sophomore Erik Van Rooyen and Senior Donald Constable. Van Rooyen fired a first round 68 on his way to shooting a six-over 222 for the tournament. Constable came into the final round tied for fourth after backâÄìto-back rounds of 71, but dropped to a tie for 13th after a final round 79. Competing at his home course, Constable was fairly pleased with his performance, but disappointed he didnâÄôt finish higher. âÄúI thought I played well,âÄù he said. âÄúI didnâÄôt capitalize on as many opportunities as I would have liked. I hit it pretty good, and didnâÄôt really make a whole lot. When I made bogeys, I bounced back with pars or birdies, and kept my round going today with some par saves through thereâĦIâÄôm a little disappointed, but overall, it was a good week I thought.âÄù Many players, including Constable, surprised spectators by seldom hitting driver on the 7020-yard course. With such a narrowly-designed course, accuracy had to trump power, Constable stressed. âÄúIf you keep your tee shot in play, you can make some birdies out here and put up a good number,âÄù Constable said. âÄúItâÄôs when you start hitting crooked is where you start making mistakes A lot of college players love to hit driver and want to hit driver, but this is a golf course where you got to manage your tee shots and where you place the ball in the fairway.âÄù The individual winner, John Hahn of Kent State, followed ConstableâÄôs formula, keeping the ball in the fairway on his way to a three day score of ten under par. Hahn combined 15 birdies and an eagle with only seven bogies to shoot under par all three rounds. Defending champion Kelly Kraft of Southern Methodist University was in second place at five under par going into the final round but finished in fifth place after a five over par 77. Outside of Constable and Van Rooyen, MinnesotaâÄôs next highest finisher was Shang Zhi, in a tie for 33rd.