Regular season finale a tough one

Solid conference competition is awaiting Minnesota at Ohio State.

The Minnesota women’s golf team is down to its final tournament of the regular season and, for the second straight time, will be seeing a number of Big Ten opponents just a week before the conference championship.

The Gophers will remain in the Midwest for this weekend’s Lady Buckeye Invitational, a 54-hole tournament at the Ohio State Golf Club’s Scarlet Course. The event will feature 36 holes on Saturday and a final 18 Sunday.

Minnesota’s final dust-up before the Big Ten championships will pit the Gophers against conference foes Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin and tournament host Ohio State.

Thus far in the 2007-08 season, Minnesota has only managed to finish higher than any of those teams once. The Gophers outpaced Penn State by 16 strokes last week in the Indiana Invitational.

Though Minnesota’s finish in Carmel was its second-worst of the spring, a pair of freshmen showed resilience and maturity beyond their years on the first day of play.

Teresa Puga and Michelle Edlin both shaved eight strokes from their morning to their afternoon rounds, recovering well from poor starts.

Puga and Edlin will start again in Ohio and will be joined by fellow freshmen Mary Narzisi and Samantha Sommers; juniors Paige Bromen and Young Na Lee will round out the Gophers lineup.

Men close out regular season as well

Like the women’s team, the Minnesota men’s golf team has reached its final test of the regular season, but the men will travel west for their last hurrah.

The Gophers begin play Saturday at the U.S. Intercollegiate, hosted by No. 11 Stanford at the Stanford Golf Club in Stanford, Calif. The tournament will feature 54 holes in two days, with 36 being played Saturday and the final 18 Sunday.

The field in California features seven teams in Golfweek’s Top 50, including No. 3 UCLA and No. 5 USC.

The elite competition will give Minnesota one last chance to polish its play before the Big Ten Championships next weekend.

Because a .500 overall win-loss record is required to qualify for the NCAA regionals, and the Gophers are currently 41-78-1, they must win the conference tournament in order to reach the postseason.

As such, junior Victor Almstrom and sophomore Ben Pisani will be taking their first tournament off this spring to rest up and prepare for the Big Ten championship.

Taking the course for Minnesota will be senior Clayton Rask, who is ranked No. 17 by Golfweek, juniors Patrick Datz and Yu Katayama, sophomore Thomas Campbell and freshman Mikael Salminen. Datz is making his spring debut.