First Big Ten glimpse in Ind.

C.J. Spang

After competing against mostly Southern schools in its four tournaments this spring, Minnesota’s men’s golf team opens Big Ten play this weekend at the Boilermaker Invitational.

The 16th-ranked Gophers will be one of only three top-50 Big Ten teams in West Lafayette, Ind., joining No. 23 Northwestern and No. 39 Purdue.

“There’s a couple teams that are, I would say, are as strong as the teams that we’ve been playing against,” assistant coach Andrew Tank said. “I would say Northwestern and Purdue and maybe Indiana are close to the caliber of those teams.”

Minnesota has shown significant improvement since its first tournament of the spring – the NCAA Shootout in Puerto Rico.

The Gophers finished 17th out of 18 teams and had just one player crack the top 50.

But in last weekend’s Augusta State Invitational, Minnesota finished ahead of three top-15 teams – No. 5 UCLA, No. 11 East Tennessee State and No. 15 Tennessee.

That success might take some by surprise considering two of the Gophers’ top three returning golfers have yet to play their best golf.

Two-time All-American Bronson La’Cassie has broken 70 once in 12 rounds and junior Niall Turner has yet to break 71 this spring.

La’Cassie’s best finish was a tie for 23rd at the National Invitational Tournament and Turner’s best was in the same tournament when he tied for 16th.

“I think they would both agree that they haven’t played up to the best of their ability,” Tank said.

But Tank also noted that both golfers are improving quickly, which could spell trouble for the rest of the Big Ten.

“(Bronson is) getting very close so that’s a good thing in a lot of ways, ’cause once

he does play his best then we’re going to be even that much better,” Tank said. “And kind of the same with Niall Turner.”

While the two who were expected to perform haven’t done as well as anyone would have hoped, there have been others who have stepped up to fill the void.

“Another player that has really come alive here this spring would be Victor

Almstrom,” Tank said. “His solid play as our fourth man has really made the difference. He’s really picked up his game and he’s the reason just as much as anybody that we’ve done so well the last two tournaments.”

The steady improvement has the team eager for the challenge of Big Ten play.

Senior Josh Persons summed it up the best:

“We believe we can win and that’s what we’re here to do.”

Gophers earn honors

For the second-straight week, Minnesota’s men’s golf team has the Big Ten Golfer of the Week – both of them.

Freshman Victor Almstrom and senior Persons were named co-Big Ten Golfers of the Week for their performances at the Augusta State Invitational last weekend.

Almstrom and Persons both finished one stroke under par for the tournament in a tie for seventh place overall.