Gophers will travel to NCAAs as an 11-seed

Monday could’ve been a pins-and-needles day for the Gophers men’s golf team under different circumstances. They spent much of the season riding on or near the bubble in the NCAA head-to-head rankings, but when the 81-team field was announced, they made it in with room to spare. The reason it wasn’t an issue? The team had a surprising, to say the least, performance in last weekend’s Big Ten tournament, finishing in second despite coming in as the tenth-highest ranked team out of the 11-team field. As a result, the Gophers received a No. 11 seed in the 14-team regional hosted by Columbia Univeresity. They will play in the regional at Galloway National Golf Club in Galloway, N.J. next weekend, May 14-16. âÄúI think we’ve found that if we play well, the field doesn’t really matter,âÄù junior Ben Pasani said. âÄúNothing else matters if we can go out there and have fun and play some good golf. If we can do that we can advance.âÄù The tournament starts with six regionals around the country, and the top-five finishers in each regional advance to the final tournament May 26-30 in at Inverness Golf Club in Toledo, Ohio. That’s nothing new to the Gophers, who have advanced out of the regional nine times in the last 16 years, including a regional victory in 1999. Despite the non-ideal golf climate that this year kept the team from its own facility until the season’s second-to-last tournament, the Gophers have been one of the most successful teams in college golf in recent years, winning the 2002 national title and making the regionals seven out of the last eight years. And as a northern team, it doesn’t hurt that they’re playing at a northern course. Though confusing to a golf outsider, northern courses have different types of grass, which changes the way a ball reacts to shots, and also have generally longer roughs, Pasani said. Pasani, fresh off being named second-team All-Big Ten, leads the team with a season stroke average of 73.11, which puts him in the program’s top-20 all-time best scorers. Also important for the Gophers will be freshman Thomas Chang, who has struggled with consistency but showed over the weekend the potential to be one of the top golfers in the Big Ten over the weekend. After a 78th place finish just two tournaments before, Chang sat in second place for most of the final round before finishing in third âÄì despite coming into the tournament unranked. âÄúHe’s come along fanstastic,âÄù Pasani said, âÄúthough it’s nothing we as players and coaches didn’t already know from watching him in practice. He’s a really talented golfer and he’s going to be a big part of this team the next few years.âÄù The Gophers leave for New Jersey on Tuesday afternoon âÄì with several players having to reschedule finals âÄì and will be playing on a fairly short course that regularly boasts $200 green fees. The Gophers missed the tournament last season, but most of the players have played in an NCAA regional at least once. âÄúWe’ve been successful here in the past, and we’re just going to try to keep it as simple as possible,âÄù Pasani said. âÄúIf we play our golf, we should definitely be able to advance.âÄù