Gophers head west to compete at Stanford

Four of five golfers in the lineup going to California are underclassmen.

Brad Bobel

With a group of young golfers in tow, head coach John Carlson is taking his team west yet again.

Less than a week after competing in Arizona, the Gophers will compete at Stanford starting Thursday, and most of the golfers traveling for the tournament are underclassmen.

“It’s always good to be picked to travel,” freshman Rúnar Arnórsson said. “You always want to be No. 1 [on the team] and play great rounds of golf for the team.”

The Gophers held six team qualifying rounds in Arizona for the upcoming tournament in California.

“We’re still competing for a spot [on the travel squad], but we are doing what we came here to do,” said freshman Riley Johnson,  who will compete in the Goodwin.

Playing conditions in Arizona were different than what the Gophers were used to — they still have to practice indoors beacuse of Minnesota’s weather.

 “Arizona is quite different, since it’s a desert there. You have to hit the fairways every time or else you might lose your ball,” Johnson said. “But the courses were beautiful and miraculous.”

In their final round, the Gophers competed against Dartmouth in a NCAA sanctioned event, which means the competition was counted in the record books.

Minnesota defeated Dartmouth by 15 strokes, with Johnson shooting the lowest score with a 4-under par at 68.

“Competing against Dartmouth put a little game into the qualifying,” Arnórsson said. “A win is a win, and it was great to get that tournament feeling.”

Arnórsson said the highlight of qualifying was when they played at TPC Scottsdale, which is a PGA Tour course. TPC Scottsdale hosts one of the largest-attended tournaments in the world, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, every year.

Once the Gophers finished qualifying, they announced the five golfers who will play in the Goodwin against 23 other teams.

“The course has its challenges. It’s a par 70 and short off the tee,” Johnson said. “But it has a treeline like Minnesota, so we’ll feel right at home.”

Before the competition begins, the Gophers will have a chance to participate in a practice round to get familiar with the course.

“[Practice rounds] are so helpful. We can hit two balls off the tee, and when we get to the greens, we can figure out the breaks,” Johnson said. “And when the actual rounds start, we can look at our notes, and it takes a lot of stress off.”

Minnesota will face off against four top-25 teams in the field and will need to carry its success from the qualifying rounds to the tournament.

“It’s a totally different atmosphere than what we’re used to in college,” Carlson said. “It reminds me of professional playing days. There will be morning and afternoon tee times, and there could be a variance in weather and wind.”