Men rally for first-place tie in California

The Gophers came from behind Sunday, testing No. 2 Stanford all day.

by Brian Deutsch

The Minnesota men’s golf team was able to come from behind this weekend at the U.S. Intercollegiate in California to win its first tournament of the year as the Gophers tied for first place with host school Stanford, though they lost the tie-breaker to the Cardinal.

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And the first-place finish came at just the right time for the Gophers, according to senior Niall Turner.

“It’s definitely a confidence boost after the rubbish in the last couple of tournaments we’ve played.”

The rubbish that Turner referred to was his team’s performance at recent events, where Minnesota recorded its lowest finishes of the year.

But it was a different story for the Gophers this weekend as the team had four players finish 12th or better, going neck-and-neck with 2nd-ranked Stanford.

The two teams were the sole competitors to shoot below par or anywhere close to it, for that matter. The third-place team, Oregon State, shot a 20-over 860.

The Cardinal built up a five-stroke lead going into the final day of play but a strong final round by the Gophers slowly eroded the gap and as the final scorecards were tallied, both teams sat at two-under par.

Besides outshooting the 13 other schools competing in the tournament, Stanford and Minnesota also dominated the individual race with eight finishers in the top 12.

Although the Gophers were able to inch their way back into a first-place tie, one member of the Stanford squad was less willing to loosen his grip on the individual award.

Junior Rob Grube took over the pole position Saturday and was able to hold off Minnesota senior Bronson La’Cassie, who made a strong push during the final round.

Grube fired an eight-under 202 over the weekend to help his team win its sixth event this season, including the Gopher Invitational last fall.

But trying to win Stanford’s home tournament and extract revenge wasn’t something La’Cassie thought about during the final round as the outcome of the tournament rested on his and Grube’s shoulders.

“It’s not something you think about really,” he said. “Wherever we go, we want to play well.”

La’Cassie helped keep the individual race close, coming within one stroke of the leader late Sunday and leading the way for Minnesota with a second-place finish.

La’Cassie fired a six-under 206 to land the three-time All-American his best finish this season.

And his teammates weren’t far behind.

Both senior Niall Turner and junior Clayton Rask fired one-over 211s to secure a tie for seventh place, and sophomore Victor Almstrom finished only two strokes behind the pair in a 12th place tie.

Freshman Thomas Campbell was Minnesota’s outlier at the tournament with a 12-over 222.

Campbell, who is competing for a spot on the team’s conference roster, finished tied for 46th in just his second collegiate appearance.

According to coach Brad James, the team’s first win this season also showed him what the team needs to do to prepare for the Big Ten Championships later this month.

“We had four really good individual performances, and I think to win a Big Ten Championship or a national championship you need five good performances.”