Homeless Gophers seek refuge at Midwest regional

Kristian Pope

They say there’s no place like home. But the problem for the Gophers men’s golf team is, there is no home.
Gophers sports teams typically play to big crowds at their respective homes. Williams Arena. Mariucci. The Sports Pavilion. Siebert Field. The Metrodome. Most Gophers games and events sell-out. All at least have crowds. Heck, even the tennis and track teams have local support.
Not the golf team. This season, the team hosted the Reliastar Collegiate Invitational, its only “home” meet of the year. But that took place at Hazeltine Golf Course in Chaska, hardly considered a campus facility.
All other golf tournaments are played on the road; some as far away as Puerto Rico. Even during its lone home tournament, it’s hard to distinguish if the Gophers really are home.
Being on an opponent’s golf course is nothing new for a Gophers team that begins the first round of the NCAA Golf Central Regional tournament this morning in Ann Arbor, Mich.
No cheerleaders. No band playing the Rouser. And surely no fans rooting for Minnesota.
Ah, yes. Such is life as a Golden Golfer.
“If we came here wanting people to do the wave or shout ‘De-fense’ for us, we’d be playing basketball,” Gophers freshman Dan Arroyo said. “In golf you’re your own enemy, your own friend. You make it or break it alone.”
Said sophomore Rob Kerr: “At our tournament, we made up a couple of thousand tickets. We gave out a ton of them but only a couple hundred showed up. In college golf, there are no galleries. Except for family.”
Yet, the par-71 Wolverine Course is like home for the Gophers. The familiar Midwestern setting is definitely welcoming.
The three-day regional, consisting of 21 teams and six individuals, marks the fourth consecutive tournament appearance for Minnesota. The Gophers went 21 years without an NCAA bid prior to 1993.
The top 10 teams and the two low-scoring individuals at the regional will qualify for NCAAs, May 29-June 1 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Oklahoma State, ranked No. 1 in the country, is favored to win this weekend in Ann Arbor.
But the Gophers are not intimidated by the top-ranked teams. “Not at all,” Arroyo said. “If anything, being a northern team has an advantage against the southern teams. The other teams were complaining (Wednesday) that it was too cold. They were wearing snow caps and it was 56 degrees.”
The Gophers are coming off a fourth-place tie at the Big Ten Championships, May 10-12. For the first time in school history, two Gophers were named to the All-Big Ten list as freshman Matt Doyle and teammate Aaron Barber took the honor. Afterward, Doyle was named conference freshman of the year.
Michigan’s course has been kind to several Gophers. Doyle won the Wolverine Invitational there in September. Barber, averaging 74.8 strokes per round this season, estimates he has played the course 12-13 times.
“It’s a huge advantage when you’ve played a course before. I think we have a good chance (to win). This is our kind of course.”

Note: Barber took second during the first stage of qualifying for the U.S. Open on Tuesday by shooting a 1-over-72 at the Wolverine Course. He said he will qualify for the professional tournament if he places first or second during the second stage of qualifying on June 4 in Chicago.
Gophers ticket sale
For the second consecutive year, students can purchase two season football tickets for $36, the department announced Wednesday. The sale runs through June 30.Tickets can be purchased at the University ticket office located in Mariucci Arena or by calling 624-8080.
Gold Country Run
The first annual Gold Country Run and Gophers Fun Fest will be held on Saturday, June 1 at Bierman Field.
The 5K run will begin at 9 a.m. Preregistration for the run is $10 prior to May 20. Race day registration begins at 7 a.m.
Entry forms are available at Gold Country Apparel in Dinkytown, all Bruegger’s Bagel locations and the University ticket office.