Men place seventh, women eighth at Big Ten championships

Erik Van Rooyen and Jackie Shepherd recorded top-10 finishes for the Gophers.

Drew Claussen

Both the men’s and women’s golf teams finished near the middle of the pack at the Big Ten championships over the weekend at the French Lick Resort in French Lick, Ind.

This season was the first time that the tournament was held at a neutral site and also the first time that both the men and women competed at the same location at the same time. The tournament will be played at the French Lick Resort for the next two seasons as well.

The men played the par-72 Pete Dye Course and shot 1,215 as a team over the four-round tournament to finish seventh.

Junior Erik Van Rooyen was the highest-placing individual for Minnesota. Van Rooyen shot a 6-over-par 294 and finished seventh individually. Van Rooyen’s strongest round of the weekend was his last, in which he shot an even-par 72.

“We can count on him — he’s our leader,” head coach John Carlson said. “He had four rounds where all of them could have been a little bit better, but finishing top-10 in the Big Ten is certainly a feat.”

The top-10 finish all but assures Van Rooyen a spot in the NCAA championships as an individual. The official announcement will be made May 14.

It was his second top-10 in a row at the Big Ten championships. Van Rooyen finished fourth last season.

“He’ll put himself in a position to win next year,” Carlson said. “The top player in the conference is graduating, Luke Guthrie, and I feel like Erik Van Rooyen is probably the second-best player, and next year he’ll be highly ranked nationally and certainly top-ranked in the Big Ten.”

Only two golfers broke par on the weekend, one of those being the winner, Guthrie from Illinois, who shot a 5-under-par 283.

Gophers freshman Tyler Lowenstein’s third round score was disqualified because he signed an incorrect scorecard. The disqualification meant that Lowenstein automatically finished last individually in the tournament.

After shooting 9-over-par in his first two rounds  Friday, Robert Bell turned it around on Saturday and Sunday, shooting a 2-over-par 74 and even-par 72, respectively.

“I told [Bell] after the performance today, unfortunately, he didn’t finish his round off the way he wanted today, but the final 36 holes shooting 146, not many guys in the whole field did that,” Carlson said. “To do that on a big stage like the Big Ten championship on a tough golf course certainly proved a lot to me as a coach.”

Minnesota managed to improve its final round score and dash a trend of having poor final-round scores in the past couple tournaments.

“I was pleased that we were able to have a good final round,” Carlson said. “The golf course was there for the taking, but at the same time, pin positions were tough, and I was proud of the way that the guys fought all day long.”

Despite losing senior Donald Constable, Minnesota improved its team finish this season by one place from last year. The team will not lose any players due to graduation this year.

Women

The Gophers women’s team showed its youth and inexperience during the opening round of the Big Ten championships.

Minnesota shot 918 and finished eighth out of the conference’s 12 teams.

“I was happy with the way we played the last two days,” head coach Michele Redman said. “Really what happened is we just didn’t play well the first day, and that’s what really hurt us.”

Minnesota had 19 more strokes as a team in its first round than it did in each of its final two rounds. This season was the first time that the women’s tournament was three 18-hole rounds rather than four.

“Inexperience is what I would guess [hurt us],” Redman said. “Maybe putting a little too much pressure on ourselves. The beauty of it is that we’re going to be back here next year, and we’re not losing anybody.”

The Gophers took a junior, a sophomore and three freshmen to the tournament, which was also played at French Lick at the Donald Ross Course, a couple miles from the course the men played.

Junior Jackie Shepherd had the most consistent tournament for Minnesota and shot 73-73-74 — 220 to finish tied for seventh.

“She played great,” Redman said. “She played consistent, she really never struggled, [and] she just hung in there.”

Redman said that although the team did not finish where she expected, the way they finished makes her optimistic about next season.

”You can’t really ask for much more from them than to get better the last two days,” Redman said, “They hung in there. We’re really close right now.”