Coming into the 2007-2008 season, the Minnesota men’s golf team had appeared in the NCAA Regionals for 14 straight years, but a lackluster spring and a newly implemented NCAA rule has put that streak in serious jeopardy.
The new rule stipulates that a team must have an overall win-loss record of .500 to be considered for postseason play; the Gophers are 41-78-1, and with only two tournaments left before regional play, reaching .500 is out of the question.
As such, Minnesota’s last hope of securing a postseason berth lies with a Big Ten Tournament championship. A win there would give the Gophers an automatic bid.
But to do that, Minnesota must try and put out of its mind the struggles it has dealt with this spring.
This weekend, for the U.S. Intercollegiate at Stanford, sophomore Ben Pisani and junior Victor Almstrom will miss their first tournament of the spring to work on some technical things and “refresh and refocus,” according to associate head coach Andrew Tank.
“It’s more for just getting away from things and having a fresh start mentally,” he said. “It’s just to give them a chance to step back and gather themselves because they’re great players and they should be shooting better scores; hopefully this will give them a chance to get focused again.”
Then Almstrom and Pisani will rejoin their team in Michigan for the Big Ten Championships and the chance to advance to NCAA Regional play for the 15th time in a row.
And despite the Gophers’ struggles, senior Clayton Rask is confident the team can come together in time to hoist the conference crown.
“I know we have a team that can hands down win Big Tens,” he said.
Women on the way up
As a Northern team in a sport largely dominated by the South, the Minnesota women’s golf team tends to be an afterthought in NCAA golf.
The Gophers want to change that.
And, using the considerable recruiting talents of associate head coach Kristine Wessinger and recently appointed Director of Golf Brad James, Minnesota has begun investing in young talent in hopes of elevating the Gophers’ women’s team to an elite level.
This spring, the possibility of that is coming a bit more into focus as Minnesota has fielded a young and promising team week-in and week-out.
Freshmen Teresa Puga and Mary Narzisi each have two top-10 finishes, and junior Young Na Lee took home medalist honors at the Diablo Grande Intercollegiate, which the Gophers won for their first tournament victory in nearly a year and a half.
And though these are small steps, Wessinger likes the direction the team is headed.
“We want to bring this program to be one of the top in the country,” she said. “I think we’ve got a long way to go still as far as the team and the program, but I can see a lot of improvement.”