Englishmen set tone for run

by Jim Schortemeyer

When a pair of Englishmen met on the first tee of the Big Ten men’s golf tournament Saturday, it wasn’t for the first time. Minnesota’s Martin LeMesurier and Northwestern’s Luke Donald were teammates on the 1994 British junior team and were well-acquainted.
But with the Gophers trailing the Wildcats by one stroke before Saturday’s round, there was hardly time for pleasantries. Little did they know their performances would determine the course of the tournament.
The pair teed off 20 minutes before Minnesota’s 15th-ranked James McLean and his gallery of 100 strong. Just a handful of people watched eighth-ranked Donald and 66th-ranked LeMesurier work around the course.
“We had a bit of a chat on the way around,” LeMesurier said. “It was all right.”
LeMesurier got off to a quick start with birdies on the first and second holes. Donald went out quickly too — he was 2-over par after six holes.
The key hole was the seventh. Donald hit his second shot into the par 5 to within 25 feet of the pin. LeMesurier responded with an iron to about 15 feet. Both LeMesurier and Donald made birdie, but Donald’s putt signified a turnaround in his game; he went 6-under par for the remainder of the tournament.
At the turn LeMesurier was 2-under while Donald scrambled to finish 1-over.
“He was struggling on the front nine but he was 1-under on the back,” LeMesurier said. “He’s not real familiar with the course — I kind of expected it.”
After the turn, LeMesurier got hot. He birdied the 10th and 11th to go to 4-under, where he finished. The word spread quickly back through the Minnesota ranks — LeMesurier was in third place at 4-under.
While the word spread, LeMesurier and Donald were quietly going about their rounds.
Donald admitted the pairing with LeMesurier helped him focus on his game.
“He’s quite quiet, so we just got along with our business,” Donald said.
By the end of Saturday, it was LeMesurier’s 4-under-par charge that gave the Gophers a two-stroke advantage leading into Sunday’s final round.
But it was Donald’s 1-under par back nine that was more a premonition of things to come than LeMesurier’s low round.
Paired with Minnesota’s James McLean, Donald came out firing for the final round Sunday. He quickly dropped below par on the front nine, something he hadn’t done alltournament.
“We wanted to get out to a fast start today,” Donald said of his coach’s plan for the round.
One hole behind McLean and Donald, LeMesurier was struggling. Briefly 1-under on the front nine, LeMesurier had to fight just for a 1-over-par 72.
Donald was busy fighting his own fight — to not be overlooked by the big gallery following McLean. Standing on the 18th tee, Donald knew he had done well. He was six strokes ahead of McLean at 5-under.
Donald finished with a 67, good for fourth place and a tie with LeMesurier in the overall standings.
“In the end, the first three days were a setup for the finish,” Northwestern coach Pat Goss said. “(Donald’s round) is what really won the event.”