Women ride hot streak into weekend tourney

Jim Schortemeyer

Rarely does a fourth-place finish embolden a coach to refer to her team as a “freight train.”
But just four days after the Minnesota women’s golf team finished fourth at the Indiana Invitational, coach Kathy Williams said the Gophers have the momentum of a speeding locomotive.
“It feels like we’re a big freight train right now, you know?” Williams asked. “We’re moving fast and it’s kind of nice.”
The confidence isn’t entirely undue. The Minnesota choo-choo shot a 309 Sunday, just three strokes behind Indiana’s tournament-winning total.
Now the Hoosiers are without the home-course advantage, and the Gophers are hoping for a swing in results.
“We figure that the home-course team has about a five-shot advantage,” Williams said. “We think they might be kind of vulnerable.”
If the Gophers hope to beat Indiana, their consistency could be a problem. Minnesota had a 325 in the first round of last weekend’s tournament, which doomed its chances. But Williams was pleased with the response from her team.
“They were real mad at themselves after that first round,” she said. “In the second round they got the feel for the greens and everything came around.”
Minnesota will be at the Iowa Invitational this weekend, looking to take the top spot. Ohio State and Purdue, which finished second and third respectively last week, will not be in Iowa City.
That leaves the Gophers and the 19th-ranked Hoosiers. Minnesota’s confidence is peaking at almost the right time. The Big Ten tournament is just two weeks away, and a win over Indiana could be the biggest of the season to date.
“To beat Indiana would be huge,” senior Donna Boom said. “This whole spring has been a boost. We’ve had two wins this spring and two other strong finishes.”
If the Gophers’ little engine that could is going to pull off an upset, they’ll need senior Kristi Weichert to continue her hot play.
Last weekend Weichert finished in a tie for second place against the best in the Big Ten. The finish was a bit of a surprise and has jolted both players and coaches into thinking Minnesota can beat Indiana.
“We just talked about it, actually, and we feel we can beat them,” Weichert said. “We showed that we can play with them in our last round. We’ve proved to ourselves that we can play with them.”
That’s a big switch for a team that finished sixth in last year’s Big Ten tournament. Boom said Weichert’s low scores make the job easier for the other golfers.
“We know each other’s ability and you know you don’t have to go out and be the top scorer,” Boom said. “We’re a real deep team, and that helps us relax and not worry too much.”
If Minnesota’s scores keep dropping, the train could be on-track for its first Big Ten title since 1989.