Gophers take to Augusta for 54-hole tournament

Minnesota will stay until Monday to watch a Masters practice round.

C.J. Spang

A trip to the Masters is on the line for Minnesota’s men’s golf team.

No, the Gophers won’t be playing in one of golf’s most storied tournaments, but after the 54-hole Augusta State Invitational this weekend, the team will have the opportunity to watch the Masters practice round Monday.

“It’s brilliant to go watch that tournament because you’ve seen it on TV for so many years, you’ve seen all the best players play,” junior Niall Turner said. “It’s great to actually finally see it firsthand.”

Not only is it exciting to see, but it also has an inspirational effect.

Coach Brad James has mentioned on multiple occasions how many of the Gophers have a chance to play professionally someday, and watching the pros inspires them to step up their game.

“It’s like a dream,” Turner said of watching the Masters. “It’s so amazing to get in there and you really kind of feel motivated to practice and work hard and try to make it there.”

James was looking for his team to work much harder after its poor performances in Minnesota’s first two tournaments of the spring.

But his team didn’t even need the Masters to inspire a solid performance in the last tournament.

Last week at the National Invitational, Minnesota finished 11 strokes behind tournament-champion UCLA.

The Gophers get a second chance to topple the Bruins, as UCLA highlights the tournament field this weekend. UCLA is ranked sixth by Golfweek magazine.

“Last tournament was a bit of a confidence booster for us, especially the last round,” Turner said. “We struggled very much in the first two tournaments (this spring) so it was nice to get a little confidence back Ö I think we’re all pretty confident we can go down there and win the tournament.”

Turner gets honor

Junior Niall Turner was named Big Ten co-Golfer of the Week after his performance at the National Invitational Tournament.

Turner carded a 1-under-par 215 in the three-day tournament, putting him in a tie for 16th place.

“It’s pretty cool,” Turner said. “I didn’t expect it to be honest with you after finishing, but I guess it’s nice to get these honors now and then so I’m kind of happy with that.”