The Gophers women’s golf team heads to the Big Ten tournament this weekend, a new territory for most of its members. Only juniors Katie Bakken and Jenny Brunn have competed at a conference tournament before.
The lack of experience, however, doesn’t upset Gophers coach Melissa Arthur.
“I’ve always talked about this team being really young, but now that you come to the end of the year everybody has a year under their belt. I think they’re very experienced and very ready for the challenge,” Arthur said. “These last two tournaments there has been a couple different people step up. That will be good going into this tournament experience-wise.”
The four-round championship opens Friday and runs through Sunday. Although Wisconsin hosts the tournament, Minnesota is not playing on an unfamiliar course. The Gophers competed in the Lady Northern, also hosted by the Badgers, during the fall.
“It’s gorgeous. It’s more scoreable,” Arthur said. “It has really nice greens and that is appealing.”
Arthur said the favorable course coupled with a strong golf conference gives each team a shot at the crown.
“I think right now Michigan State is playing the best golf on a consistent basis,” Arthur said. “But then you have Ohio State, who just won this last tournament (the Lady Buckeye).”
There’s even a slim chance for the Gophers — it would be Minnesota’s first Big Ten championship win since 1989.
“I think if we can beat some of those teams, start out on the first day and beat some of those teams out of the gate, we’d have a chance,” Arthur said.
The Gophers men’s team resumes action this weekend. Minnesota travels to Michigan State for the Bruce Fossum Invitational on April 29-30.
The host Spartans will be playing for their first team win of the season at the 54-hole tournament. Illinois claimed the Invitational’s team crown last season while the Illini’s Larry Nuger took the individual title.
Six other Big Ten schools are set to join Minnesota, Michigan State and Illinois in the final preparation for the conference tournament (May 5-7). Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State and Wisconsin are among the Big Ten field. Akron, East Michigan, Iowa State, Kent, Louisville, Marshall, Miami (Ohio), Rhode Island and Xavier round out the 18-team field.
Sarah Mitchell covers golf and welcomes comments at [email protected]