Minnesota falters in final fall tournament

Jose Mendez shot a 6-over par and tied with his teammate Tyler Lowenstein.

Minnesota's Jose Mendez plays at the season-opening Gopher Invitational at Windsong Farm Golf Club on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013.

Daily File Photo, Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota’s Jose Mendez plays at the season-opening Gopher Invitational at Windsong Farm Golf Club on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013.

Jake Stark

The Gophers came into their final tournament of the fall season with high hopes for a strong finish.

But a poor first round Sunday derailed any chance of that.

The Gophers finished 10th out of 18 teams at the Wendy’s Kiawah Classic at Turtle Point Golf Course in Kiawah Island, S.C.

“The first day, we played our worst round of the year,” head coach John Carlson said. “It was a bitter end to a really solid fall season.”

He said strong winds on the first day of play contributed to the slow start. While every team shot higher scores that day, the wind affected Minnesota more than most of its opponents, Carlson said.

The Gophers shot 21-over par in the first round and finished in 15th place. All five Gophers golfers shot over par for the round.

Minnesota played better on the second and third days of the tournament, shooting a combined 19-over par in the final two rounds.

Freshman Jose Mendez and junior Tyler Lowenstein were the team’s lowest scorers. Both shot an aggregate 6-over par for the tournament and finished tied for 16th place.

Carlson said he was surprised by Lowenstein’s performance. Lowenstein had to earn a spot in the Gophers’ top five during a team qualifying tournament last week, he said.

“It was a lot of fun to see Tyler play well,” Carlson said. “He’s a very good driver of the golf ball, and the golf course fit him perfectly.”

South Carolina hosted the tournament and won the team title with an aggregate score of even par. Marquette finished a distant second after shooting an aggregate score of 22-over par.

Marquette sophomore Nick Nelson won the individual title, finishing 6-under par for the tournament.

The Gophers won’t play again until February.

Carlson said he’s very pleased with the way the fall season turned out, but he hopes his team can elevate its play in the spring.

“I hope my players really challenge themselves mentally and physically this offseason,” he said. “I expect us to be very competitive when we return in the spring.”