Minnesota begins fall season at Wisconsin Invitational

The Gophers finished last at this event last year, 76 shots behind winner Purdue.

If the Minnesota women’s golf team hopes to improve on last year’s finish at the Wisconsin Invitational, it will have to do it without head coach Katie Hanneman.

Hanneman, who is entering her fourth season as head coach, will be on maternity leave for most of the year, leaving the coaching duties to fourth-year assistant Kristine Paulson.

But that isn’t too concerning for sophomore Sydney Liles.

“(Having Hanneman gone) was a little hard, but our assistant coach is great and very qualified,” she said.

The Gophers begin the 2006 fall season Sunday and Monday at the Wisconsin Invitational at University Ridge Golf Course.

This weekend’s tournament will feature 10 teams playing 54 holes; 36 on Sunday beginning at 8:30 a.m., with the remaining 18 holes to be played at 8 a.m. Monday.

In the past few years, the tournament has been difficult for Minnesota.

Last year the Gophers finished in last place, 76 shots behind eventual Big Ten champion Purdue. But the tournament was just the beginning of Minnesota’s seasonlong woes.

The team only had two top-10 finishes last year – a ninth-place finish at the Furman Invitational and a first-place finish at the Gophers’ own Minnesota Invitational, while finishing last in seven of the remaining eight tournaments, including the Big Ten Championships.

But Minnesota has been working hard to improve last year’s performance, according to freshman Leslie Grabeman.

“We’ve all just been working hard, practicing short games,” she said. “It’s been looking pretty good.”

Only two players, senior Samantha Braschler and sophomore Young Na Lee, carded scores that factored into Minnesota’s total last year at the Wisconsin Invitational.

Lee shot a 16-over par 242 and Braschler shot a 19-over par 245, tying for 57th and 60th, respectively.

Other experienced members of the team include juniors Kelli Berns and Emily Brand and sophomore Sydney Liles.

Liles competed in the Collegiate Players Tour this summer, taking home top honors at the Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club in Albuquerque, N.M. It also allowed her to work on a few aspects of her game.

“I’ve worked on controlling my temper and (I’ve been) really working on my short game,” she said.

A slew of newcomers will join the experienced players on Minnesota’s roster; they include junior Paige Bromen, sophomore Anne Martin and freshmen Lauren Brooks, Leslie Grabeman and Christine Herzog.

“(The newcomers) just need to relax and know that they can count on everyone else,” Liles said.

A few golfers from last year’s squad won’t be counted on this season, as three golfers were lost to graduation and another three for other reasons.

The Gophers’ top golfer from last year, Suvi Mantyniemi, returned to Finland because of homesickness. Katie Bushard and Sophie Stubbs left for unknown reasons, while Lindsay Somrock, Sarah Butler and Jessica Thomas graduated.

Despite being without much of the top talent from last season, Grabeman remains confident in her team.

“We’ve all been working really hard these past two weeks,” she said. “Everybody is playing well, so we should be pretty good.”