U golfers revved up for region

Jim Schortemeyer

Immediately after the Minnesota men’s golf team lost its bid to win the Big Ten championship last weekend, senior Adam Dooley hugged sophomore James McLean.
“We still got the big one,” Dooley told McLean.
That “big one” is the upcoming NCAA championships which the Gophers harbor hopes of winning. But before they get that far, there’s the matter of this weekend’s NCAA regional tournament at Ohio State.
Odds are pretty good that Minnesota will move on. Ten teams will advance from the region and the 10th-ranked Gophers are the fourth-highest-ranked team in the region.
Big Ten champion Northwestern will also be in Columbus, but the Wildcats aren’t expecting it to be too much trouble for the top-ranked teams to advance.
“We expect to make it out of regionals,” Northwestern coach Pat Goss said. “A team of our caliber shouldn’t have any problems as long as we play reasonably well.”
But neither the Gophers nor Wildcats played particularly well at last weekend’s Big Ten tournament. Both coaches termed the golf “sloppy,” thanks to rain, deep rough and tough pin placements that inflated the scoring.
Even some of Minnesota’s best rounds weren’t thanks to good play. McLean shot a 66 on Friday, despite some shaky irons.
“I started out slow and got better,” McLean said. “My short game saved me. It was a totally goofy 66. I hit like six greens or something like that.”
Senior Bill Thompson even went out and bought an expensive new putter in hopes of lowering his scores. Thompson shot a 69 Saturday after buying a new putter Friday.
“I was late to the team dinner because I was out buying a putter,” Thompson said. “Call me a head case if you want, it still worked.”
It may not take a spectacular regional tournament for Minnesota to qualify for the championships at Hazeltine National Golf Course, but the Gophers have a lot to prove. They have to face Northwestern — which beat Minnesota by three strokes last weekend — and they need to set a tone for the NCAA tournament.
Minnesota coach John Means admits the Gophers have a lot to learn after letting the Big Ten tournament slip away on their home track.
“Hopefully the greatest lesson we learn this week is we’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Means said. “We’re going to see what they’re made out of now.”
Technically, last weekend’s performance at the Big Ten tournament was an improvement for Minnesota. The Gophers’ second-place finish was their highest since winning the Big Ten title in 1972.
While Means was disappointed about his team’s meltdown last weekend, he and the rest of the Gophers think they have a chance at their first NCAA championship.
“I wanted to have that ring, but we’ve got a good chance for another one,” Means said.