Gophers finally tee-off at Bolstad before heading to Ohio

After a long wait, Gophers men’s golfers finally got to do something Wednesday that most golf programs take for granted. In fact, it’s something almost any team in any sports takes for granted. They got to practice on their own, home practice site. On the 54-degree, mostly cloudy day, players finally got to putt on their own practice greens and drive on their own driving range at Les Bolstad course in St. Paul. With some sense of regularity of schedule, now, the Gophers finally are in the same situation as most other programs heading into this week’s Robert Kepler Invitational in Columbus, Ohio. âÄúThe practice facility opened up yesterday, and every single guy on our team was out there practicing,âÄù senior Victor Almstrom said. âÄúThe past four tournaments we’ve gone and traveled somewhere where you can play outdoors, and when you get there and start hitting off the grass, it’s kind of a shock.âÄù The team had practiced outdoors at a few courses around the metro area, but not with any regularity. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, the team either practices inside a dome or hits out of an enclosed space. The difference between that and Bolstad, Almstrom said, is significant. âÄúYou get a true feel for the way things lie, and you can actually simulate shots more, at a driving range,âÄù he said. âÄúOf course, if you’re actually playing, then you’re actually getting work hitting those shots. But even just at a driving range, you can use your imagination a lot more. It makes a big difference.âÄù The weekend temperatures in Columbus are similar to what Minneapolis has had the past few days, which will mean a drop for some of the southern teams, but what the Gophers currently are happy to see. To associate head coach Andrew Tank, that isn’t a petty fact. Actually, he said, it’s one of the few advantages to being a golf program in a northern climate. âÄúOur guys, probably more so than some other teams, are hungry and really ready to go out and practice,âÄù he said. âÄúYou spend so much time outdoors, you want to get out there for as long as you can to work on your putting and your chipping, and other things that you might not want to do as much if you had that weather year round.âÄù The Gophers go into the tournament in a situation not unlike ones that the football and men’s basketball team faced towards the ends of their seasons. With two tournaments left, including this weekend, the Gophers are No. 68 in the NCAA head-to-head rankings, which is right around the cutoff for teams to make the NCAA tournament. A final-round meltdown last weekend âÄì the team shot an 18-over after putting up a collective 4-under in the first two rounds âÄì dropped them a few spots in the rankings, and they will have to have a better showing this weekend to remain tentatively âÄúin.âÄù Fortunately for the Gophers, the field won’t be as tough as it was last weekend at Augusta, where eight teams were ranked in the top-50. âÄúWe haven’t spoken to them that much about it, but I’m sure they’re aware that we haven’t necessarily taken care of business so far this season,âÄù Tank said. âÄúWe haven’t really played as well as we’re capable of, and as a result, we’re on the bubble right now. We know we can easily move up the rankings, though.âÄù