Late Sunday charge falls short for Minn.

by Austin Cumblad

It was a valiant Sunday charge, but in the end, the Minnesota men’s golf team came up just short.

The Gophers sat just two back of Michigan State as junior Victor Almstrom and his group, the last on the course, stepped up to the 18th tee. It was not to be, however, as Almstrom’s tee shot nestled against the lip of a fairway bunker, he was forced to pitch out and, unable to recover from there, he walked off with a double bogey and a tie for fifth individually.

Still, Minnesota finished as runner-up at the Big Ten Championships Sunday in East Lansing, Mich., carding a 25-over par 1,177 in 72 holes on the Forest Akers West Course.

It was a bittersweet end to a disappointing season for the Gophers. Though it was by far their best finish of the spring, the NCAA regionals will not have Minnesota on the bill for the first time in 14 years.

As Michigan State struggled down the stretch and the Gophers came on strong, a miraculous comeback appeared possible. Senior Clayton Rask eagled the par-5 17th and two Spartans made a mess of their final hole.

But Michigan State’s Ryan Brehm was unflappable, posting a bogey-free 32 on his final nine to keep his team clear of Minnesota.

Just being in the final group and having a chance to win was quite impressive for the Gophers, who sat in a distant sixth after 36 holes.

Rask limped to a first round 81 and finished the day in 46th, but came back with rounds of 68 and 72 on Saturday and Sunday to finish ninth. And associate head coach Andrew Tank said his turnaround helped the team turn around as well.

“It was unlike him to get off to the start that he did,” Tank said. “But (Saturday’s) bogey-free round was huge for the team. He showed his leadership and said ‘come on guys, let’s go’ and led by example.”

Women 8th in Big Ten

The Minnesota women’s golf team’s finish in its final tournament of the season was fitting in a lot of ways.

In what has been a year of incremental improvement, the Gophers finished better than last at the Big Ten Championships for the first time in three years, carding a 72-hole total of 79-over 1,231 to tie for eighth with Iowa Sunday at Penn State’s Blue Course in State College, Pa.

In the usual fashion, the Gophers were led by freshmen Teresa Puga and Mary Narsizi. Puga and Narsizi entered the final weekend of the spring as the team’s leaders in stroke average and Minnesota’s most consistent golfers, and they lived up to that reputation nicely.

Puga was rock solid through all four rounds, firing the third best 72-hole score in school history, an 11-over 299 which earned her solo 6th.

“That was fantastic what she did,” director of golf Brad James said. “I’m extremely proud of the way she performed all year, how hard she worked, and she got rewarded this tournament.”

Narzisi finished just outside the top 20 but, like Puga, carded four rounds in the 70s and finished at 18-over 306.

Fellow newcomer Paige Bromen, a junior transfer from St. Olaf, also played her steadiest golf of the spring. Bromen played well below her stroke average of 82.4, putting up a pair of 79s, a 77 and a 76. A tie for 35th was her best spring finish by 11 places.

James looks at the way his young squad is performing and is encouraged about the future.

“I look at where we were last year, finishing last by a lot,” he said. “To go from 11th to eighth, I’m pretty happy, especially playing five people who are basically in their first year.”