In a trying year across the board for Gophers athletics, the Minnesota womenâÄôs golf team is quietly having one of the best seasons in the programâÄôs history.
Coming off of a sixth place finish at the Big Ten championships âÄî the teamâÄôs best conference finish since 2001 âÄî the Gophers will kick off play today at the NCAA Central Regional Golf tournament in South Bend, Ind.
It is the first time since 2001 that Minnesota will be participating as a team in the NCAA tournament.
The Gophers are led by seniors Teresa Puga, Mary Narzisi, Samantha Sommers and Michele Edlin. The senior foursome recently scored a 1216 over 72 holes at the Big Ten championships, the second-lowest score at the championships in program history.
The four seniors have also individually left a huge mark in the Minnesota record book âÄî all four are top 10 all-time at Minnesota in career scoring average.
PugaâÄôs career scoring average of 75.62 is the lowest in program history. She has also finished in the top 20 six times this season, while also earning co-medalist honors at the UCF Challenge in February.
Narzisi currently has the third lowest scoring average in school history at 78.12, and is coming off of a 14th-place finish at the Big Ten championships.
Sommers ranks fifth all-time with a scoring average of 78.23. She recently finished in ninth at the Pinehurst Challenge in April.
Edlin is 10th all-time with a scoring average of 78.88 and has three top 20 finishes this season.
Finishing off the Minnesota lineup will be Banchalee Theingthong, a freshman from Thailand who is no slouch herself, having earned two top 20 finishes this season.
Despite the talented group, the Gophers will have their work cut out for them. The 24-team regional includes eight of the top 25 teams in the nation, including No. 1 UCLA. The field also includes No. 5 Duke, No. 7 Louisiana State University, No. 8 Arkansas, No. 14 Wake Forest, No. 21 Tulane, No. 19 Texas and No. 25 Notre Dame.
Minnesota is the 14-seed and is joined by Big Ten foes Illinois, Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
In order to advance to the NCAA championships, the Gophers will have to finish as one of the top eight teams out of the 24 schools at the regional.
Minnesota has made a total of five NCAA appearances, its best finish coming in the 1989 NCAA championships where the team finished 12th.
Hosted by Notre Dame, the regional will be played through May 7 at the par 72 Warren Golf Course.