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Senior gets his game back at the right time

Robert Bell has the Gophers’ second-lowest scoring average this spring.

Robert Bell struggled to find his confidence and his golf swing last fall.

Now he has it back.

The senior on the Gophers men’s golf team has mostly returned to form halfway through the spring season.

Bell has the second-best scoring average for the Gophers and has played in all three tournaments this spring.

“It’s kind of satisfying to finally see results starting to show,” he said, “and doing things on the golf course that I know I can do.”

Last fall was a different story. Bell played in just two of the Gophers’ five tournaments and had the worst score for the team in both of them. His average score per round was nearly six strokes worse than it is this spring.

Bell said he had to focus on his golf swing heading into the winter months. He spent nearly four months working with coaches John Carlson and Tyler Stith to improve his ball-striking ability.

Stith said the coaches changed Bell’s setup and adjusted where he positioned his club before following through.

After numerous repetitions, Bell emerged with a new swing that produces a straighter ball flight. His draw has been reduced, and he has become more consistent off the tee, which has allowed him to hit more fairways.

The putter has always been Bell’s “forte,” but he said he has also improved his iron shots and his course management skills.

“I think all of those things have reflected on a successful spring thus far,” Bell said.

His improvements showed last weekend at the U.S Intercollegiate. Bell shot under par in two of the three rounds and tied for 26th, his best finish as a member of the lineup this season.

Stith walked with Bell the last two rounds and said the senior was comfortable and in control during those 36 holes.

Carlson said it was just as important to restore Bell’s lost confidence as it was his swing.

Bell’s confidence skyrocketed in February after a tournament in Arizona. He was excluded from the lineup after losing a qualifying round against freshman Charlie Braniff, but he played as an individual and tied for sixth with teammate Jon Trasamar to lead Minnesota.

“After that, it’s just been a renewed focus for him,” Carlson said. “Now he has some better fundamentals. He can go out there every single day, and he can bring the same game to the golf course.”

Carlson said Bell is as big of a boost to the lineup as he’s ever coached and brings a lot of talent — especially in putting.

“He has the ultimate weapon that a lot of people don’t have in their game, and that’s a good putter,” Carlson said.

But Bell said he wants to work on becoming a more consistent all-around player.

“I can’t take a leap from where I am now to the PGA Tour or the [developmental tour],” he said. “It doesn’t happen like that. It happens with taking baby steps and improving each part of your game individually.”

The Big Ten championships take place April 26-28 in French Lick, Ind. If Minnesota is going to challenge for the title, it will likely need Bell in the lineup.

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