Men’s golf uses rest to prep for Big Tens

by Jim Schortemeyer

A short vacation can be nice because suddenly there’s time for watering the flowers and feeding the cat.
But four weeks off is a different story.
The Minnesota men’s golf team had nearly a month off from the rigors of constant travel, but are getting back in shape this weekend. The Gophers have to start sometime — the Big Ten championship is next weekend.
The Gophers, ranked No. 10 in the country, are the favorite after beating 15th-ranked Northwestern three times this spring. With no other Big Ten teams even ranked in the top 50, the Gophers realize it’s just a two-horse race for the Big Ten title.
“Northwestern is definitely the team we’re going to have to beat,” sophomore James McLean said. “If everybody plays well, we’ll win because I think we’re a little deeper. Our four and five guys are better than theirs.”
The top of Minnesota’s lineup isn’t too shabby either. Even after a long layoff, McLean is ranked 14th in the nation. Before the break, McLean finished in the top five of three consecutive tournaments.
And although McLean was on a tear before the break, he said then that he was mentally fatigued and ready for a break. Now he said he’s, “Definitely fresh and ready to go.”
While he may be rested, he’s not overly confident about his game.
“It’s not too bad,” McLean said. “There’s always room for improvement. We’ll find out this weekend.”
Though McLean was anxious for a break, junior Martin Le Mesurier was worried about remaining competitive. Four weeks later, he said he’s happy with the break.
“It’s been pretty good,” Le Mesurier said. “We’ve had time to get our schoolwork done and relax.”
It wasn’t all fun and games for the Gophers. Coach John Means, who prior to the break questioned his team’s focus on Big Ten tournament, held a five-round tournament last week to keep his team in shape.
“That five-rounder helped, and there’s been some good work done,” Le Mesurier said. “It hasn’t been a lackadaisical break.”
Starting Saturday, Minnesota’s break will be over. The Gophers are in Ann Arbor, Mich., preparing for the Wolverine Invitational this weekend. And if Minnesota wants to establish itself as the power in the Big Ten, this will be the weekend to do it.
Seven of the 18 teams in Michigan are from the Big Ten, including Northwestern, which makes the meet very important.
The Wildcats have yet to top the Gophers this season, but have a strong lineup led by Luke Donald.
Donald, who is ranked seventh in the nation individually, and McLean will probably finish 1-2 since no other golfers in the top 15 are at the tournament this weekend.
The tourney serves as a chance for the Gophers to hone their games before the heart of every team’s golf schedule: the championships. Minnesota will host both the Big Ten tournament next weekend and the NCAA tournament at Hazeltine National Golf Course in June.
Tuesday the Gophers hit the links at Hazeltine for the third time this spring and, while the Big Ten tournament may be closer, the NCAA tournament rides on everyone’s mind.
“You take them one at a time, but if everybody’s being honest, you’re getting riled up for nationals,” Le Mesurier said.