Minnesota opens season in Wisconsin with men’s golf coach at the helm

Minnesota director of golf Brad James will have both teams under his command.

Nick Heronimus

Under new direction this year, the women’s golf team will head to the Badger Invitational to begin its season.

Coach Brad James, who had previously anchored only the Gophers men’s golf team, will now have the responsibility of the Gophers women’s team as well. Even with the responsibility of both programs, James is ready to begin the season.

“I am excited about both programs and excited to see the changes in the women’s program,” he said.

This sentiment can be heard through the Gophers senior captain Kelli Berns as well.

“We expect to get a lot better this year and have some good things happen, win some tournaments,” she said.

The women’s first opportunity to see these improvements will be this Sunday and Monday at University Ridge Golf Course in Verona, Wisc. The tournament is made up of 13 teams and is without last year’s tournament champion Indiana. Without the Hoosiers the door is open for another team to win this year’s tournament.

In past years, the Gophers women have struggled at the Badger Invitational which included last year’s 10th place finish in a rain-filled weekend. The team shot a 99-over-par 963. Only Georgetown was worse with a 123-over-par.

However, the Gophers look to start this year off on the right foot and have been putting in the work this summer to get those results according to James.

“The ladies have been organizing private golf lessons in the summer and it is nice to see their enthusiasm for this season.”

The private golf lessons have featured work on everything from swing technique to chipping and putting. The work has been helpful for Berns as well.

“We have worked on improving everything,” Berns said, “and the lessons have been very in-depth.”

The course itself has in the past been difficult due to the weather and its length but is nothing that Berns said the team has not seen in typical courses.

“(University Ridge) is not far off from the courses that you see in Minnesota, which is helpful in returning this year,” she said.

The team will try to build upon the familiarity of the course and an experienced roster, which includes juniors Sydney Liles and Young Na Lee along with senior Emily Brand.

Teaming with the veteran golfers will be a top newcomer freshman Samantha Sommers.

This summer, Sommers won the Minnesota Junior Girls State Golf Championship. Sommers won the event by 14 strokes and will be an important member of the Gophers team this fall.

The combination of veterans and newcomers has James optimistic for this season and the new direction of the program this year.

“We want to feature a Big Ten champion level team,” he said, “and then get to the national level.”