Slowly moving up the ladder from last place

After winning the Minnesota Invitational four weeks ago, Minnesota fell to last place a week later.

C.J. Spang

After winning the Minnesota Invitational four weeks ago, Minnesota’s women’s golf team has had its fair share of disappointments.

The following weekend, at the Lady Northern Invitational in Bloomington, Ind., saw the Gophers take last place in the 12-team tournament, 67 strokes behind tournament winner Purdue.

This weekend at the Lady Paladin in Greenville, S.C., the Gophers showed signs of improvement and tied for ninth in the 17-team tournament.

After day one of the Lady Northern, Minnesota found themselves in last place, six strokes behind 11th-place Wisconsin.

“The Lady Northern was definitely a disappointment,” coach Katie Hanneman said. “We were in a rough position to be in last (after the first day) and the day we thought we could play catch-up, we kind of got hammered with some brutal weather.”

It was a lesson learned for the young Gophers team that starting out strong is crucial to success in any tournament.

With the loss behind it, Minnesota took that lesson to heart and came out strong at the Lady Paladin, shooting a first-round 305, which put it in eighth place, 13 strokes behind tournament leader Furman.

A disappointing 317 in the second round dropped the Gophers back two spots with one round to play.

But Minnesota came back with a final-round 305 to move up to ninth place, finishing 33 shots behind first-place Furman.

As it has been for much of the season, the Gophers’ freshmen continued carrying much of the load in the past two tournaments.

Finnish freshman Suvi Mantyniemi was the top Minnesota finisher at the Lady Northern, tied for 29th after carding a 14-over par 230. Teammate Sarah Butler finished just one stroke behind her in a tie for 31st.

“I thought I played OK,” Butler said. “I struggled on the green but I felt like I hit the ball well.”

At the Lady Paladin, sophomore Emily Brand led Minnesota with a 15-over par 231. Butler and Mantyniemi tied for 32nd along with freshman Sydney Liles, who was playing in her first tournament on the road, all shooting a 16-over par 232.

“I feel like I proved myself,” Brand said. “I shot far better than I did last year.”

Hanneman was very pleased with the effort she got from her freshmen.

“The freshmen have done just a great job coming in and handling all the pressure that freshmen have to handle,” Hanneman said.

But Hanneman is looking for the veterans to step up around her young golfers.

“I feel like (the veterans) were kind of a limiting factor in why we didn’t

finish in the top five in the tournament,” Hanneman said. “But if they can step up and do their job this next weekend, we’re going to be right where we need to be.”