Mendez, Gophers take top spot at Rutherford Invite

Minnesota appears confident with the Big Ten tournament two weeks away.

Minnesota's Jose Mendez plays at the season-opening Gopher Invitational at Windsong Farm Golf Club Sept. 8.

Daily File Photo, Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota’s Jose Mendez plays at the season-opening Gopher Invitational at Windsong Farm Golf Club Sept. 8.

David Nelson

Not even a 90-minute frost delay Sunday could cool off the Gophers men’s golf team, as it won the Rutherford Invitational after an impressive two-day performance.

In the team’s final contest of the regular season, head coach John Carlson watched as his players dominate, winning the tournament by 12 strokes.

“It was total team effort from start to finish this week,” Carlson said.

Not only did the Gophers win the team competition, but freshman Jose Mendez’s 6-under-par won the individual competition.

This marks the first time in his collegiate career that he’s placed first overall outright. He tied for first at the Duck Invitational last month.

“It means a lot for me,” Mendez said. “It feels awesome. It’s really good for me and for the [program].”

The Gophers started strong Saturday, ending their first day of competition atop the leaderboard.

“We dominated the field yesterday, and it’s a great feeling,” Carlson said Sunday. “We were expected to win, and we got the job done.”

Mendez and senior Alex Gaugert helped pace Minnesota, finishing their opening rounds in first and tied for third place, respectively.

“I drove the ball the first day really well,” Gaugert said. “It was probably some of the best driving I’ve had in a long while.”

Mendez and Gaugert remained consistent during their weekend and each finished in the top 10.

The course in State College, Pa., was a challenge for most competitors, with only three finishing the tournament with scores under par.

Gophers senior Jon Trasamar felt the effects of the course early in the tournament, tying for 45th to start his weekend. He battled back Sunday and finished in the top 20 for the fourth time this spring.

“He’s one of the huge reasons that we’ve made strides in our program,” Carlson said. “His leadership as a captain and also leading on the golf course today certainly is a big help to us.”

This is the Gophers’ fourth top-three finish in a row, and the team’s morale is soaring.

“I think our confidence is at an all-time high,” Gaugert said. “You just see guys walking with their heads up, shoulders back.”

And with the way Minnesota has played, the team is prepared for the Big Ten championships in just two weeks.

“We know anything is possible at that tournament,” Carlson said. “It’s going to be one of the better Big Ten [tournaments] in the last decade.”