Women’s golf takes new role in Big Ten

by Jim Schortemeyer

The Minnesota women’s golf team isn’t used to being in this position.
The Gophers are usually hard to spot in Big Ten invitationals. They tend to hover in the middle of the pack. But with four seniors on this year’s team, Minnesota has seen a steady improvement in its results. The Gophers have won two tournaments this spring and are routinely close to the top of the leaderboard.
“It’s real fun now with the seniors and getting some respect in the Big Ten,” coach Kathy Williams said. “We’re on top of the world, because they’ve had to work so hard to get there.”
While they may be on top of the world, they’re not on top of Indiana or Ohio State — yet. The Gophers have not beaten either team this spring.
Minnesota is still trying to react to its new role as an underdog to the Big Ten, and its insecurities played a hand in this weekend’s Iowa Invitational. Minnesota took second place behind the Hoosiers in Iowa City.
The Gophers’ unfamiliarity with being a serious threat to Indiana showed early in the tournament. Williams wasn’t happy with her team’s somewhat sloppy start.
“We were just a little unsettled in the beginning, the first four holes really” Williams said. “They want (to win) so bad it’s almost like they’re trying too hard at the start.”
Minnesota recovered to finish in second Saturday, 11 strokes behind the Hoosiers. Senior Melanie Lepp attributed their high scores to the weather.
“The wind was a tremendous factor and made the course extremely long,” Lepp said.
Lepp was paired with the best Hoosier of them all Sunday, senior Erin Carney. Carney is turning professional at the end of the year, and won the tournament.
“She and I have played before but I didn’t play well,” Lepp said. “It’d be nice to show her my real game.”
Lepp shot a 79 Sunday, the same as Carney. Lepp led the team with a tie for fifth.
The meet was as close as the Gophers will come to a home tournament this season. Most of the team’s parents were in Iowa City, and their presence has been sorely missed during this season of road trips.
“It’s awesome having your parents at a tournament,” Lepp said. “I tend to focus more. When my parents are watching, I tend to not lose my concentration.”
Minnesota has just two tournaments left to concentrate on this spring: next weekend’s Buckeye Invitational and the Big Ten tournament the following weekend. If the Gophers are going to get comfortable with the role of an underdog, they have very little time left to do it.