Gophers hope experience leads to improvement from past seasons

The team has four seniors, including Runar Arnorsson, who won an event last season.

Riley Johnson plays at the Windsong Golf Club during the Gopher Invitational on Sept. 13, 2015.

Alex Tuthill-Preus, Daily File Photo

Riley Johnson plays at the Windsong Golf Club during the Gopher Invitational on Sept. 13, 2015.

Max Biegert

As the fall weather starts to close in on the state of Minnesota, another season awaits the Gophers men’s golf team. 

The first tournament of the season, the Gopher Invitational, will take place at the Windsong Farm Golf Club in Independence, Minn. on Sunday Sept. 10 and Monday Sept. 11.  Last year, the field was ranked the 17th toughest tournament in the country, according to Golf Week. 

“I wouldn’t be surprised if [the Gopher Invite] is in the top five this year,” said head coach John Carlson. 

It has been an up and down last five years for the Gophers. They finished second  the Big Ten, then first, and then third before losing All–American and Big Ten Champion Jose Mendez to a back injury. Mendez had two years of eligibility left before getting injured, and that left the Gophers with more inexperienced golfers than originally thought these last two years.

“Unfortunately, at the end of the year it just seemed like the experience of other teams won out,” Carlson said. “The good thing is that with his injury we were able to get guys who are now seniors quite a bit of experience.”

Those seniors he is referring to are Runar Arnorsson and Riley Johnson. Arnorsson, the senior from Iceland, holds the Minnesota low score record with a 62 and an average score of 73.70 last season. 

Johnson, from Fargo, North Dakota, had the second best average on the team last year with a 73.03. 

“Me and [Arnorsson] have a lot of tournaments under our belt and we have a lot of tournaments that we have been too this year,” Johnson said. “Knowing the course before hand and how the course is playing makes things comfortable.”

Thomas Longbella, who is now a sophomore, also looks to add some tournament experience into the 2017-18 season. He was third on the team with a 73.04 scoring average and led the Gophers in two tournaments. Not only will there be that experience, but also a freshman class that could mix well help get the Gophers back to the top of the Big Ten like they were in 2014. 

“In my seven years, this is the strongest recruiting class we have had,” Carlson said. “We expect these guys that are coming in to play right away and wouldn’t be surprised if Angus Flanagan and Even Long are contenders for Big Ten freshman of the year.” 

Freshman Angus Flanagan was the captain of Team England U18 and won the Carris Trophy for being the lowest scorer. He will look to add a youth movement to go along with the veterans on this team. 

The team heads into the Gopher Invitational unranked, facing off against five opponents currently in the top-25. That doesn’t seem to discourage the team, though.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to make it to regionals or nationals,” said Johnson.