Minnesota’s men’s golf coach Brad James felt the Gophers were within striking distance of the lead after two rounds of the National Invitational Tournament wrapped up Monday.
Instead, he watched his team fall further from the lead Tuesday, slipping from fourth to eighth place on the final day of the 11-team tournament.
While the Gophers fell out of contention, James was happy with what he saw.
“We played pretty well,” James said. “It is difficult playing against this level of competition.”
Eleventh-ranked Minnesota finished with a 5-over-par 869. However, the Gophers finished 6-over-par Tuesday, eliminating any chance at catching front-runner Arizona State, which went on to win the tournament with a 9-under par team score.
In the final round, Minnesota only had one golfer under par. Justin Smith was 1-under-par Tuesday and finished as the Gophers’ best finisher with a 3-under-par for the tournament, good for a ninth-place tie.
Bronson La’Cassie nicely complemented Smith as the Gophers’ one-two punch. La’Cassie finished 1-over par after posting an even round Tuesday.
Ben Greve, who had a solid second day of the tournament in Tucson, Ariz., finished 2-over par.
David Morgan finished 7-over-par and John Hempstock finished 32-over-par.
James said he was hoping to see a better final round from Hempstock. While the freshman improved from day two to day three, his struggles were noticed.
“We just needed a fifth (score),” James said. “I want some guy to let me know he wants the fifth (lineup spot).”
Ryan Paulson might be that guy. Paulson was a regular in the Gophers’ rotation before suffering a shoulder injury Feb. 24. He will be re-evaluated today.
Despite falling four places in the standings on the final day, James was encouraged by the Gophers’ ball striking, solid course management and adjustment to the fast greens.
“It’s something we can take to our next tournament,” James said.
Minnesota returns to action Saturday in Augusta, Ga.
ï University of Nevada-Las Vegas junior Ryan Moore was the tournament’s top individual finisher. Moore completed the three-day tournament with a 9-under par.
ï Arizona, which hosted the three-day event, finished in second place, two strokes out of the lead.