Gophers headed to Augusta, Ga. during golf’s biggest time of the year

This weekend, the Gophers men’s golf team will play in a city that has more golf history than just about anywhere else in the world: Augusta, Ga. It was there that, over a decade ago, a 21-year-old Tiger Woods captured the attention of the nation as golf’s new phenomenon. It was there that on a 17th-hole green, 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus sunk a dramatic putt, eventually winning and hushing those who thought he was washed up. It was there that Woods knocked in a seemingly impossible, final-round bunker shot for birdie in 2005. All those moments came at the Masters, golf’s biggest tournament, which has been held held since 1934 at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. The Gophers, unfortunately, don’t get to play there. They’ll be about a 10-minute drive away, playing at Forest Hill Golf Course in the Administaff Augusta State Invitational. Still, golf will be in the air in Augusta. After all, Augusta National will be occupied by people preparing for next weekend’s Masters, which is good enough reason for the team to stick around until Monday to watch them âÄúEven though we’re not on the course, this is one of those opportunities to be around one of the biggest moments in golf, and we appreciate that,âÄù associate head coach Andrew Tank said. âÄúThe fact that we get to stick around and watch these guys is probably the biggest draw of this tournament.âÄù Though they typically head home immediately after wrapping up their tournaments on Sunday afternoons, the Gophers will stay another day to take advantage of the sights. Augusta State, the hosts of the tournament, give out free tickets to all the teams, and almost all of them stay the extra day. With much sparser crowds than the days of the actual tournament, players are able to roam around the course and choose who to watch for the day, which starts with them arriving around 7 a.m. It’s a routine the team has had for several years. âÄúAnyone who is into golf knows that the Masters is one of the biggest deals there is,âÄù junior Ben Pasani said. âÄúIt’s just fun to watch these guys, but at the same time it’s a unique opportunity to pick up tips from guys who truly are the best in the world at what they do. You can pick and choose who to follow around, and I know I always pick up some stuff throughout it.âÄù But that’s Monday. The tournament, which runs Saturday and Sunday and has live scoring on golfstat.com, is a big one for the Gophers, who are ranked No. 61 in the NCAA head-to-head rankings. The NCAA uses those rankings to pick its postseason field, and the cutoff is usually around No. 70. âÄúYou could say we’re on the bubble a little bit,âÄù senior Victor Almstrom said. A good showing this weekend could beef up that ranking into a more comfortable spot, with eight of the field’s 17 teams ranked in the top-50. Minnesota took 14th in the tournament last year. âÄúWe know this is big for seeding and all that,âÄù Tank said. âÄúIt’s not our main focus, but we’re aware of it. And this would be a great weekend to make a push, right here in Augusta.âÄù