Women’s team still looking for niche

After a rough two years, the Gophers have gotten off to a slow start.

by Adam Fink

Minnesota’s women’s second-year golf coach Katie Weiss uses the terms “rebuilding” or “transition” to describe this year’s squad.

But considering how far the program has come over the last two years, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

After being nearly eliminated in 2002 and suffering through the defections of players and former coach Melissa Arthur-Ringler, the Gophers are beginning to rebound from a tough 24 months.

“We are still going through the bumps and bruises,” Weiss said. “I feel good about us. After taking these hits, any program will feel the effects for a while.”

Minnesota has endured a slow start to its spring season thus far. In their last three tournaments, the Gophers finished in seventh, 15th and, most recently, 11th place (at the BU-Tapatio Springs Shootout on Sunday).

Despite the results, Weiss said the Gophers are making progress – especially considering the team’s rotation.

The Gophers only have eight golfers on their roster with two – Ashley Bruun and Brittany Willborg – redshirting this season.

Since most tournaments only allow five or six golfers from each team to compete, essentially all of Minnesota’s eligible players make the lineup. Knowing no one will take your roster spot helps to build confidence but it also has its limitations.

“It hurts,” Weiss said. “There isn’t as much competition in practice.”

However, junior Terra Petsinger has continued to blossom in the last year and a half. The North Dakota native finished in fourth place at the Big Ten Championships last season and was the Gophers’ top finisher at the Central District Classic on Feb. 24.

Petsinger has also been one of Minnesota’s leaders off the course. She and senior Katie Jacobson are the only two upperclassmen on the roster.

“They do a great job of providing leadership,” Weiss said. “They are learning, too. (Petsinger’s) success has been within the past year.”

Sarah Butler has also provided a spark for the Gophers, finishing as the team’s top player in its last two tournaments.

Weiss said she hopes freshman Sophie Stubbs will help the Gophers at the Indiana Invitational and Lady Boilermaker Invitational in April.

The England native was the Gophers’ second-best finisher Sunday, behind Butler.

“She needs to correct a few minimal mistakes,” Weiss said. “She has had one or two bad holes (in each tournament) that have really hurt her.”

Two years ago, the Gophers finished last in the Big Ten Championships. Last year, the team improved to ninth place.

This season, the Gophers would like a top-six finish at the event, which would be another step forward for a program that appeared on the verge of extinction only a short time ago.

Men’s golf

After winning three of its four fall tournaments, Minnesota’s men’s golf team was cruising, just more than a year after winning the 2002 NCAA title.

But since the spring season started, the Gophers have struggled as a team. Minnesota – ranked 11th in the nation – finished in 17th place at the Hall of Fame Invitational on Sunday in Texas.

The Gophers’ slide can be traced to their eighth-place finish at the Puerto Rico Classic on Feb. 24.

Minnesota fell from third place after day one, to sixth, to its final spot. Some of the slide can be attributed to Ryan Paulson, who suffered a shoulder injury and didn’t play the final round.

The Gophers’ rotation has remained relatively constant in their two spring tournaments. Four golfers – Justin Smith, Bronson La’Cassie, David Morgan and Clayton Rask – competed in both events.

Ben Greve, who just missed out on a rotation spot last season, is looking to crack the lineup.

The Gophers won’t have to wait long for redemption. Minnesota travels to Arizona for the National Invitational Tournament this weekend.

The Wildcats won the Hall of Fame Classic on Sunday.