Sophomore men’s golfer Bill Thompson soared past several of his more-heralded teammates on his way to an eighth-place tie at the Marshall Invitational Friday and Saturday in Huntington, W.Va.
Thompson entered the tournament tied with senior captain Mark Halverson for the third-best stroke average on the team (74.9). He left it, however, after placing first on the team ahead of Halverson, All-American Rob Kerr, freshman standout Martin Le Mesurier and sophomore Andy Komor.
“It was a good breakthrough for him,” Kerr said. “He was off and on in the winter and the last couple of weeks he’s been getting it going. I think he’s getting comfortable out there.”
The Wayzata native had rounds of 75, 71 and 73 for a 6-over-par 219. Thompson’s second-round par-71 equalled his career best round, which he set a month ago at the Ashworth Invitational. His eighth-place finish over the weekend is his second-best finish as a Gopher.
Unfortunately, the rest of the No. 20 Gophers squad didn’t do as well. The team finished in a seventh-place tie out of 18 teams during the two-day meet. Minnesota and Eastern Kentucky both had three-round totals of 896, finishing 28 strokes behind first-place Northwestern’s tally and well below the Gophers’ expectations going into the meet.
“We felt that we were the best school there, and we should have won,” Thompson said. “We just couldn’t come together as a team, and we got pretty handily beaten by Northwestern.”
Halverson tied for 15th with a 9-over-par 222, Kerr finished tied for 27th with a 12-over-par 225 and Le Mesurier’s total of 232 earned him a tie for 59th place at 19-over. Komor, who has been platooning in the fifth slot with fellow sophomore Jeff Barney, tied for 73rd with a three-round total of 236. The top four golfers on each team contributed points toward their team’s totals.
The Gophers have been particularly frustrated with their short game. This weekend Minnesota routinely had good tee shots but was plagued by inconsistent putting. Even though they are clearly upset with their performance over the weekend, the Gophers have resolved to stay upbeat.
“We’re just trying to stay positive,” Le Mesurier said. “We made a deal that nobody would speak negative about this weekend.”
The meet marked the second straight competition in which Minnesota has failed to break the top five teams. The Gophers were third out of 18 teams at the Ashworth Invitational and fourth out of 20 at the Bridges All-America Invitational during the first two weeks of March. The team, however, appears to have lost a step or two since then. Minnesota’s seventh-place finish over the weekend served as a wake-up call to the team.
“Those are teams that we beat most of the time,” Kerr said. “They are certainly not 20 shots better than us. We’re kind of shocked, really, because we know we’re better than those teams. We just want the chance to go out there and do it again.”
The Gophers will get that chance in two-and-a-half weeks when they travel to Ravenna, Ohio, on May 2-3 for the Kent Invitational, which will be their last tune-up before the Big Ten championships. After the Gophers’ uncharacteristic performances the last few times out, the team needs to perform well at the Kent Invitational to have a realistic shot of making it to the NCAA regionals.
“With one tournament left in the regular season, we’ve got to get to work this week and next week and be able to go down to Kent and win,” Thompson said.