Gophers share Big Ten title

Brian Deutsch

The wait is over for the Minnesota men’s golf team.

Competing at the Big Ten Championships in Columbus, Ohio, the Gophers erased a nine shot deficit during Sunday’s final round to tie for first place with Michigan State.

The finish marks the first time since 2003 that Minnesota has earned the conference hardware, and it is the first time in the 87-year history of the tournament that two schools were named co-champions.

“Anytime you win a team championship, it’s a team effort,” Minnesota coach Brad James said. “Everyone played well, really.”

Trailing Michigan State by two strokes late in the final round, the Gophers were able to come back as the two teams approached the final holes of the tournament.

And the opportunity to win the first Big Ten title in four years for Minnesota came down to All-American senior Bronson La’Cassie.

After the Spartans retook the lead by a lone stroke, La’Cassie, who joined the team a year after the Gophers won the conference trophy, sunk a 15-foot putt on the final hole to clinch a first-place tie for Minnesota.

“Before the putt, everyone was crowded around the green and everyone knew I needed to hole it,” La’Cassie said. “I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. And (the putt) went in, which was good.”

La’Cassie recorded an individual second-place finish for the second-straight tournament after firing a nine-over 293 to lead the Gophers.

Fellow All-American senior Niall Turner also turned in a top-ten finish for Minnesota, tying for seventh with a 14-over 298.

“Anytime you can win the Big Ten Championships, it’s great,” James said. “But in a couple of weeks we have (NCAA) Regionals and then on to Nationals, and that’s definitely what we’re looking at.”

Women’s season ends

The Minnesota women’s golf team needed a first-place finish at this weekend’s Big Ten Championships if the team hoped to continue on to the NCAA Regionals.

Unfortunately, the Gophers were unable to accomplish that feat, finishing the event in 11th place after the team fired a 132-over 1,284 at the four-round tournament.

Minnesota’s tournament total was 96 strokes behind tournament champion Michigan State.

“The bottom line is I’m proud of (the team). They kept at it and they never give up,” Minnesota interim coach Kristine Wessinger said. “That’s all I can ask for.”

The hosting Spartans took the lead during the first round Friday and never relinquished it – carding a team score of 36-over 1,188.

Sophomore Young Na Lee led Minnesota in a tie for 22nd place after scoring a 25-over 313 on the weekend.

The conference tournament capped off a rebuilding year for Minnesota, which apart from featuring one of the youngest lineups in the country also saw a midseason coaching change.

Wessinger is already looking forward to next year, when she hopes to return for her first official year at the helm of the program.

“We’re going to continue to work hard this summer and play a lot of tournaments.” Wessinger said. “That’s how we’re going to get better – the more experience we get, the better we’ll be.”