Gophers golfers win NCAA

Jim Schortemeyer

Rarely does winning a tournament mean so little. All the Minnesota men’s golf team had to do was finish in the top 10 at the NCAA regional tournament at Ohio State to qualify for the NCAA championships.
But the Gophers did more than just qualify. They won the regional tournament by three strokes over Northwestern.
Minnesota wasn’t exactly driven to victory, however.
“I don’t think the team really cared where we finished as long as we were in the top 10,” junior Martin Le Mesurier said. “After about 12 holes Saturday, I just wanted to get it over with.
“That’s what qualifying is like. Once I knew we were in, I just started playing around. It would have taken a disaster to not make it.”
Le Mesurier finished tied for 10th with teammate Adam Dooley at 1-over par.
Minnesota is still disappointed with its second-place finish at last weekend’s Big Ten tournament. Senior Jeff Barney was anything but upbeat after beating Northwestern, the team that shocked Minnesota with a three-stroke win on the Gophers’ home track a week ago.
“I don’t know about the other guys, but to finish second (at the Big Ten tournament) was probably the biggest disappointment I’ve ever had in golf,” Barney said. “Everybody says we’re the favorites for the NCAAs, but I don’t know. … I’m a little more fond of Big Tens.”
And while 10th-ranked Minnesota is still feeling down, there is reason for optimism. The Gophers beat three higher-ranked teams — fifth-ranked Houston, sixth-ranked Oklahoma State and ninth-ranked Texas.
The margin between the top two teams and the rest of the field wasn’t even close. Minnesota finished 17 shots ahead of third-place Texas.
Gophers sophomore James McLean showed signs of a rebirth in the individual competition. After finishing sixth at the Big Ten tournament, McLean won the regional with a 4-under par total. He was the only golfer to finish at or below par in all three rounds.
The reason for the high scores was the length of the Ohio State course, which plays at more than 7,100 yards, and tough pin placements. It even drew comparisons from the Gophers to the NCAA tournament host — Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.
“It’s like Hazeltine except with more trees,” Barney said. “In fact, it was set up even harder than Hazeltine.”
Minnesota will see plenty of Hazeltine over the next two weeks. The Gophers will practice there this week to get even more familiar with the course before the NCAA tournament begins June 2.
And while the win this weekend gives Minnesota some momentum, the Gophers are taking everything in stride.
“The main thing is, we’re in for nationals,” Le Mesurier said. “Everybody was pleased with making it.”