Gophers finish fourth at Prestige, Pisani breaks out of slump in big way

Pisani shot 22-over par in his first two events, finishing fifth on the team.

C.J. Spang

Last week, coach Brad James said the Prestige Invitational was where everyone would see just how good freshman Ben Pisani really is.

James’ prediction was eerily correct as Pisani led the Gophers with a five-under par 211, finishing tied for fourth. Minnesota finished fourth in the event at four-over par. Stanford won the event at 15-under par and UCLA finished second at 13-under par. Second-ranked Southern California tied for fifth.

But as good as Pisani’s performance was, James said he can do even better.

“He’s a really good player,” James said. “He’s definitely capable of winning a college event in his first year for sure, and being an All-American his first year.”

The Gophers’ two returning All-Americans, seniors Niall Turner and Bronson La’Cassie were the next highest finishers, tying for 15th and 27th, respectively.

Turner finished the tournament at even par, but led the event after the first round with a five-under par 67. While he didn’t hold the lead, he said the fact that he shot five-under par on the course where the

final stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School is held was very exciting.

“It was definitely a great experience to play on a course that hopefully I’ll be playing again in a few years,” he said. “And to shoot a 67 on a course like that definitely gives me confidence for if I get back there in the future.”

As for the future of this Minnesota squad, it certainly looks bright after Pisani’s performance.

James attributed Pisani’s early season woes to the Australian having to adjust to the college game, something James said happens to many players in his program.

One of those players was Turner, who said he struggled for his first six or seven months and that seeing Pisani get his first solid tournament under his belt is exciting for the team.

“He was obviously adjusting to America for a while and he seems to be settling in a lot better now and playing a lot better,” Turner said. “So, in relation to the team, (his performance) was very positive for us.”

And while Pisani’s success bodes well for the Gophers, all of their problems aren’t solved.

The Prestige was the fourth straight tournament that Minnesota sent a different lineup to. Afterward, James said only Pisani, Turner and La’Cassie have secured spots and the Gophers may be sending a different lineup to the Big Ten/PAC 10 Challenge that begins Monday.

“We need to find who wants to take those other two spots,” he said. “It might be time for a change in the lineup.”

Pisani didn’t return phone calls for comment by press time.