Gophers roam Augusta as pros prep for the Masters

Early Monday morning, Gophers senior Victor Almstrom was walking on the same course as golf legends like Jim Furyk and Gary Player, watching some of the top players from around the world prepare for perhaps the biggest golf tournament of the year. You donâÄôt get that in Minnesota. The Gophers menâÄôs golf team took an extra day on their weekend in Augusta, Ga. to watch preparation for the Masters at Augusta National Golf Course after playing in the Administaff Augusta State Invitational on Friday and Saturday. It is a tradition for the team, which played its weekend tournament on a course just 15 minutes away from Augusta National. TheyâÄôve been playing in the Invitational for several years, and afterwards, Augusta State gives free tickets to all the participating players and coaches who want to stay. Most of them do. âÄúItâÄôs a really awesome way to spend a weekend,âÄù associate head coach Andrew Tank said. âÄúItâÄôs just a great learning experience for these players to see the caliber of players that this tournament has. These are the best golfers in the world walking a couple feet away from you. Watching those guys prepare for a major championship is something not many people get to do.âÄù With a 6:30 a.m. wake-up call, the team was among the first groups waiting when the gates opened at 8 a.m. Some bad weather in the morning kept most of the players off the course, but they were able to catch the bulk of them before having to leave around noon to catch a flight. A professional event in Humble, Texas also kept some of the American players away for the morning. Tiger Woods, for example, probably didnâÄôt hit the course until Monday afternoon, Almstrom said. âÄúNot that it really matters with Tiger,âÄù junior Thomas Campbell said. âÄúThere are so many people crowded around them that you donâÄôt really get to see them anyway.âÄù ThatâÄôs why Campbell made a point to hang out near the putting greens, where he could actually watch players âÄî most of them international at that point âÄî prepare for the tournament. Of course, every golfer gets plenty of mechanics advice every day, so the thing to watch for at the Masters is how players prepare for a tournament like the Masters, Almstrom said. âÄúIâÄôve been there every year since freshman year and itâÄôs still just as cool, because every year you see something new that you didnâÄôt see before,âÄù Almstrom said. âÄúItâÄôs an unreal place to go and watch people, and because thatâÄôs where you want to play someday on your own. So you watch how they handle themselves and the pressure that comes along with it.âÄù It was also a welcome day of leisure for the Gophers after a disappointing showing in the Invitational. They shot a 4-under in the first two rounds, some of their best of the season, but finished with an 18-over final round on Sunday, dropping to 16th out of 17 teams. âÄúI think everybody looks forward to this tournament every year, because we get to go out on Monday and watch these guys play,âÄù Almstrom said. âÄúItâÄôs extremely entertaining to go around and watch these guys that are so great at what they do, but at the same time, itâÄôs a great time to learn some things about how golf works at that level.âÄù