Gophers can’t repeat at Gopher Invite

Stanford’s Zack Miller and SMU’s Colt Knost tied for first at 2-under par.

The Minnesota men’s golf team was unable to repeat last year’s performance at the Gopher Invitational this weekend at the Spring Hill Golf Club.

The Gophers shot a 30-over par 894 finishing five shots behind Stanford in the 54-hole tournament, which had chilling temperatures and high winds.

Minnesota got off to a slow start Saturday morning but came back strong that afternoon to lead the tournament by two strokes over Stanford and Southern Methodist University going into Sunday.

Coach Brad James said that the unpleasant weather and a difficult course were some of the Gophers’ troubles.

“We played well on (Saturday) and finished off with a great second round,” he said. “We just didn’t finish strong (Sunday).”

This weekend was the first win of the season for Cardinal coach Conrad Ray, who took over the program three years ago.

Ray, who went to high school in Minnesota, recognized the significance this weekend’s win for Stanford.

“We have a special group of guys, who feel good about what their trying to do,” he said. “To have it at Spring Hill and in Minnesota was a treat.”

The conclusion of the tournament was also significant to the Cardinal.

As the final group of golfers headed to the 18th tee box on Sunday, three players – Minnesota senior Bronson La’Cassie, Southern Methodist’s Colt Knost and Stanford’s Zack Miller – were still within reach of the individual title.

When the drives had all landed, La’Cassie and Knost were comfortably in the fairway, but Miller was unable to find his ball. After an extensive search and rescue, the ball was located in a tree.

With his one shot lead seemingly disappearing before his eyes, Miller was forced to take a penalty. Miller’s next shot was a magnificent blast over a row of trees and onto the green.

After La’Cassie and Knost easily landed their approaches on the green, Knost putted to within inches of the cup.

Miller then putted off the green and onto the fringe, brightening La’Cassie’s chances of winning after he had finished the hole with a birdie putt.

However, Miller made an amazing putt from the fringe to bogey the final hole and after Knost tapped in for par, the two seniors split the title with two-under par 214s.

Leading Minnesota was senior La’Cassie, who shot a one-under par 215 over the weekend to take third place in the tournament.

“You always hope for a win, but I didn’t really play my best,” he said, “You can’t ask for too much more.”

Senior Niall Turner tied for seventh place with a five-over par 221. Turner, who according to James was ill, was at two-under par after two rounds, but his play slipped on Sunday.

Tied for 11th place was sophomore Victor Almstrom, who shot a 9-over par 225. Junior Andrew Paulson carded a 17-over par 233, tied for 36th place.

In his first collegiate tournament, freshman Ben Pisani tied for 48th place with a 22-over par 238.

Junior Clayton Rask fired a seven-over par 223 to finish in ninth place; unfortunately for the Gophers, his scores didn’t count towards the team totals because he was playing as an individual.

“I need to get (Pisani) some experience, he’s a good player. He’s just not comfortable playing here yet,” James said. “We’re just trying to figure out who makes the best team.”

Women finish 12th at Lady Northern

The women’s golf team finished last at the Lady Northern in East Lansing, Michigan this weekend.

The Gophers ended the weekend with a 91-over par 955 – 66 strokes behind tournament winner Michigan State.

Junior Kelli Berns led Minnesota with a 21-over par 237. Her performance landed her in a tie for 42nd place.