Slow progress is trying for an impatient Weiss

Minnesota coach Katie Weiss said she knows steps take time. But she doesn’t have to like it.

Adam Fink

Katie Weiss admits she isn’t patient. Minnesota’s women’s golf coach took the job two years ago, hoping she would turn around the program quickly.

While she knew it would be a process, it doesn’t make this year any easier.

“I do realize this takes time,” Weiss said. “I am extremely impatient. I want things to happen quickly.”

The Gophers are preparing to embark on the most difficult stretch of their schedule. It doesn’t help that Minnesota hasn’t finished any higher than seventh place in any event this season.

But the next two tournaments will likely determine how this season is viewed.

After finishing 13th (out of 15 teams) at the Indiana Invitational over the weekend, Minnesota competes in the Lady Boilermaker Invitational on April 17-18 before the season culminates with the Big Ten Championships in Columbus, Ohio, on April 23-25.

The Big Ten championships are essentially the benchmark of a team’s progress in the conference and nation.

Two years ago, after the program was announced to be cut, the Gophers finished dead last at the Big Ten Championships. Last season, it was ninth.

With a roster of only two upperclassmen, a top-six finish at this year’s event is on the Gophers’ agenda. Weiss said she hates looking at this season as a transition but that this year can be a huge learning experience for the future.

“We are definitely younger,” Weiss said. “We are relying on younger talent, especially in the latter part of our season when it really gets to grind time.”

Weiss is caught in a tough bind this season. The Gophers need experience to successfully compete. But to get the experience they crave, they must go through this season’s struggles.

Of the Gophers’ top seven golfers, two are freshmen (Sophie Stubbs and Louise Fleming) and two are sophomores (Sarah Butler and Jessica Thomas).

That is why it isn’t surprising to see Weiss or an assistant coach give a pat on the back or words of encouragement to the golfers whenever possible.

“It can be frustrating at times,” Butler said. “This team has so much talent. We just aren’t performing at tournaments. We are excited for the possibilities that we have.”

Despite their youth and fragile mentality, Weiss has reason for optimism over the next three weeks.

The Gophers are starting to practice outside again after spending the winter months confined inside a golf dome.

Weiss has noticed vast improvements in the team’s short game and also believes the team is on the upswing in terms of its overall game.

But, most importantly, Weiss believes the golfers are refusing to allow the big picture to overwhelm them.

“Overall, we are competitive,” Weiss said. “Each event you enter, you want to win. We just focus on the fact that we have a shot to win each event we enter.

“I don’t like looking at anything as a transition just because we are in the now.”

But that does little for Weiss’ patience.

Ballard earns honor

Junior Minnesota men’s hockey defenseman Keith Ballard was named an first-team All-American on Monday.

This season, Ballard scored 11 goals and 25 assists in 37 games, good for the second-best points per game mark of any defender in the nation.

Joining Ballard on the team are forwards Junior Lessard of Minnesota-Duluth, Zach Parise of North Dakota and Steve Saviano of New Hampshire. The other defenseman is Massachusetts’ Thomas Pock, and the goaltender is Brown’s Yann Danis.

No other Gophers were named to any of the three teams.

The American Hockey Coaches Association’s All-America teams are due out later this week.