Gophers finish ninth at NCAA regional

by Betsy Helfand

Minnesota entered the last day of its NCAA regional within striking distance of capturing fifth place and punching its ticket to the next round.

But Sunday’s play knocked it back to a ninth-place regional finish.

“I think we found that we were right amongst the best of the best,” head coach John Carlson said. “Today, unfortunately, we just didn’t convert on as many opportunities as we needed to.”

The team finished Friday’s play tied for sixth, but Carlson said his team didn’t hit very good iron shots Saturday.

 “I think all of our guys were very positive going into today,” Carlson said. “We just didn’t finish it off the way we had in the past five tournaments.”

Jose Mendez, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, finished tied for ninth at 1-under-par and just missed the cut off as an individual qualifier.

The top finisher from a non-qualifying team advanced to the NCAA championship and that spot went to Wake Forest’s Cyrus Stewart.

“It’s really an injustice that Jose is not going to be playing in the national championship. His record this spring speaks for itself and having another top-ten finish this week, he played great,” Carlson said.

Though the Gophers will not advance, Saturday’s ninth-place finish concluded one of the most successful seasons in program history.

“This season was a huge success. We’re going to build off this going into the future,” Carlson said.