Minnesota focuses in on improvements

The golf team will hit the road to compete in the Puerto Rico Classic.

by Brad Bobel

Though the Gophers had some individual success at Big Ten match play, the first tournament back on the course showed the team that there are still areas for improvement.

From driving off the tee to iron shots and putting, each golfer has an aspect of their game they’ll work on going forward.

Consistently driving the ball off the tee with narrow fairways and strong headwinds is difficult, and it showed for Minnesota during Big Ten match play. On the Gophers’ final day last week in Palm Coast, Fla., they faced tough conditions at the oceanside course.

“The oceanside course is tighter, and there were hazards on both sides,” sophomore Jose Mendez said.

The dual hazards forced golfers to shoot more precisely, as any small mistake could cost them strokes.

It didn’t help that the wind was especially strong during their round, making it even more tedious.

“There were stiff winds off the ocean, and it made shots harder to hit,” head coach John Carlson said.

The strong winds make it especially difficult for players that are high-ball hitters because the wind has more time to affect the ball the longer it’s in the air.

“We have some high-ball hitters, but playing in difficult conditions helps us practice and get more creative,” junior Jon DuToit said.

Minnesota will face similar tough conditions starting Sunday in the Puerto Rico Classic.

“Puerto Rico is very tight and has similar wind conditions,” Carlson said. “There are dangers on both sides [of the fairways].”

The Gophers have only six days between competitions to improve their game before they head to Puerto Rico for the three-round tournament.

“We have a quick turnaround, so we’re going to change equipment and some guys are going to change driver shafts,” Carlson said.

Changing equipment is a start to improving certain aspects of their game, but they will need time to familiarize themselves with it.

Minnesota usually has more than a week to prepare for a tournament. But in such a short break, the Gophers will need to rely on the more confident pieces of their game to succeed.

While many of the Gophers are adjusting after subpar performances in Florida, Mendez is consistently performing well.

The sophomore ended match play on a strong note, finishing the last day 2-0.

“[On the second day] I hit the ball well, made some good putts and my short game was good,” Mendez said. “I’m better than I was in the fall.”

Despite his success, consistent putting still plagues him.

“During my second match, I missed six putts I should’ve made,” Mendez said. “But on the next day, I made some good putts.”

Another player that shone last week was DuToit, as he was the only golfer not to lose a match, finishing 2-0-1.

After his successful match play performance, the part DuToit needs to improve going forward is his short game: chipping and putting.

“It’s tough practicing short game in winter. We haven’t been on real grass for a couple months now,” DuToit said.

While each player has some part of their game they need to improve on, one aspect all golfers can always improve is their mental game and how they approach each shot.

“Golf is an individual sport, and everyone has areas to improve, but it’s important to stay patient and not force anything going forward,” DuToit said.