Men’s golf places sixth at regional

C.J. Spang

Even in a field that included four of the country’s top 10 collegiate teams, an average weekend ended the men’s golf team’s two-year absence from the NCAA Championships.

At the Central Regional Championship at Sand Ridge Golf Club in Chardon, Ohio, the Gophers finished in sixth place with a 22-over par 874 to earn one of 10 spots in the NCAA Championships.

“The kids played extremely well,” coach Brad James said. “The regional is not a place you need to finish first, it’s really just a place you need to finish in the top 10 and the boys did what they needed to get done and did very well.”

Oklahoma State was the only team to finish the three-round event under par, firing a 7-under par 845 to win the tournament by 16 strokes over Northwestern, who finished with a 9-over par 861.

Minnesota put together three consistent rounds – 291, 292 and 291 – but James knows that if the Gophers want to compete at the NCAA Championships, they will have to shoot consistently lower scores.

“It was nice to see that we had three consistent rounds,” he said, “but I think if we want to compete at nationals we need three consistent low scores.”

Individually, Minnesota was led by sophomore Clayton Rask, who, for the second straight tournament, finished in the top 10.

Rask finished tied for 10th place with a 2-over par 215 that included a 2-under par 69 in the first round – the lowest round for the team.

“I didn’t hit it as well as I wanted to,” Rask said. “I just scored when I had to. If one thing went wrong, another thing made up for it. The first day I hit three fairways, but I hit 14 greens so the driver wasn’t putting it in play but my irons and putting kept me in it.”

Junior Bronson La’Cassie finished in a tie for 24th with a six-over par 219 after a rough first round.

The First Team All-Big Ten golfer shot a 6-over par 77 in the first round and followed up with back-to-back 71s to salvage the weekend.

“I didn’t play very well actually the whole three rounds,” La’Cassie said. “I really didn’t play that well at all, not like I have been. I don’t know why, just had a rough weekend. I guess, did what I had to do to scrape through and help out the team.”

James was pleased with the rest of his team as well.

Junior Niall Turner finished tied for 30th with a 7-over par 220. Senior Josh Persons fired a 10-over par 223, putting him in a tie for 48th. Rounding out the squad was freshman Victor Almstrom who finished tied for 63rd with a 13-over par 226.

“I was pleased with everyone’s performance,” James said. “No one really stood out as being unique. I think it was definitely a team effort. Everyone played consistent and they hung in there well and did what they needed to do.”

But according to the team, there is more that the Gophers can do after a self-described average weekend.

“We definitely did not play to our potential and we made it (to the NCAA Championships),” Rask said. “We did what we had to do and knowing our team and knowing how deep we are, we know we can run with it.

“It’s nice to know that we can go out there and still play better and compete with the best of them.”