Freshman golfer blossoms at Big Tens

Ryan Schuster

Prior to the start of the Big Ten men’s golf championships on Friday in Columbus, Ohio, conference officials sent out a mailing, previewing the top teams and individuals in the Big Ten. The conference named six athletes, all of them juniors and seniors, who were supposedly the class of the conference. Nowhere in the listing, however, was Gophers freshman golfer Martin Le Mesurier.
So much for expectations.
The 20-year-old freshman excelled in his role as underdog, having his best performance of the season in the biggest meet of his short collegiate career. Le Mesurier took fourth out of 55 golfers at the conference meet. The native of Southampton, England finished just six strokes off the lead at 5-over-par at the 72-hole Scarlet Golf Course.
For his efforts, Le Mesurier was named to the All-Big Ten team and was also honored as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Le Mesurier’s unexpected performance propelled the Gophers to a fifth-place finish during the three-day meet.
Ohio State won the conference tournament, Northwestern was second, Michigan placed third and Indiana was fourth, only one stroke ahead of the Gophers.
Michigan’s Kyle Dobbs, who finished 12th at last year’s Big Tens, won the invitational. Randy Leen of Indiana, the 1996 conference Player of the Year, was second, and Northwestern’s Scott Rowe, an All-Big Ten performer a year ago, placed third.
Coming into the Big Tens, Le Mesurier was thought of as a longshot to even place in the top 10 as he and junior teammate Rob Kerr were tied with two other golfers for the eighth-best stroke average in the conference (74.0). Le Mesurier’s lack of experience, especially at a meet like the Big Tens, proved insignificant as he refused to be intimidated by the conference’s elite.
Le Mesurier became the second Gophers golfer in the last two years to earn Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. Matt Doyle received the award a year ago after tying for 28th place at the Big Tens. Doyle went pro after last season.
Unfortunately for the Gophers, while Le Mesurier was having the meet of his life, the rest of the team was struggling. Minnesota had hoped to pull off an upset during the weekend at the Big Tens, but instead was plagued by inconsistent play, as it has been all season.
Sophomore Bill Thompson again was solid but not spectacular, recording a 14-over-par 302, good enough for a 12th-place tie. Kerr and senior captain Mark Halverson finished the three-day tournament in a tie for 31st place, eight strokes behind Thompson. Kerr and Halverson each finished 10 places lower than at last year’s conference tournament when they tied for 21st. Sophomore Jeff Barney finished in a tie for 50th place with a 323. Both Thompson and Barney were competing in their first Big Tens.
Notes: Indiana’s Randy Leen was named the conference’s Athlete of the Year, and Northwestern coach Pat Goss was voted Big Ten Coach of the Year. Chris Wollmann of Ohio State was also honored as the Les Bolstad Award recipient, which is given annually to the conference golfer with the lowest stroke average. Wollmann finished the year with a 72.0 stroke average. He tied for sixth at the meet.