Minnesota still searching for ways to improve sluggish starts in opening rounds of tournaments

The Gophers have fared poorly in each tournament’s opening round this spring.

by David McCoy

Ordinarily, you’d think consistency would be a good thing.

And although Minnesota’s men’s golf team definitely has that objective down, that’s not very good news to junior Ryan Paulson.

While the Gophers have consistently moved up the ladder in each day of the tournaments they’ve played this season, Paulson said that’s not something the team should be happy about as it stands.

“I’d say we aren’t very satisfied,” Paulson said. “It is nice to know you can shoot those rounds and that we’ve gotten better, but the biggest thing is we need to get out and have a good start and then keep getting better from. You’re not going to be able to take first once you get that far behind, most of the time.”

At Minnesota’s first tournament this year – the Puerto Rico Classic in Rio Mar, Puerto Rico – the Gophers started the weekend in 13th place out of 18 teams.

The next day, Minnesota moved up to 11th, and on the third day of competition, the Gophers catapulted themselves all the way to sixth.

This has been the trend so far this spring for Minnesota, with its only exception coming March 19 and 20 at the EZ-Go Schenkel Invitational in Statesboro, Ga.

In that tournament, the Gophers finished fifth the first day but fell to seventh in the second.

But even then, both Minnesota’s second- and third-day scores were better than its first.

“I think maybe we just learn from our mistakes in the beginning,” junior Josh Persons said. “And then, we move on from there, and things start working out better.”

Most recently – at the National Invitational Tournament in Tucson, Ariz. – Minnesota resumed the trend with a 13th-place finish day one and then moved up to 12th and then 11th during the next two days.

Coach Brad James said Minnesota’s tendency to finish stronger than it started just comes down to practice.

“It has a lot to do with not playing competitively enough,” James said. “We’ve not been able to play every day. It’s very typical of us, but we still need to get better in round one.”

And while that might explain lower scores for the Gophers, it still doesn’t quite explain why it happens so much more for Minnesota than its competitors.

That still remains a mystery and most likely is the result of pure luck that other teams fall back as the tournament moves along while Minnesota surges ahead.

But the Gophers said they know they can’t just rely on luck.

“Coming from behind is not what we want,” James said. “Obviously, it’s important to have quick starts. That’s something we need to do.”