U golf team hopes to shine against tough

by Jim Schortemeyer

After an inconsistent spring, the Minnesota men’s golf team will have an excellent opportunity to prove it’s on the rebound this weekend.
Starting today, the Gophers will face some of the best teams in the nation at the Compaq U.S. Collegiate Golf Championships in Lecanto, Fla.
Not that Minnesota isn’t one of the best teams. The Gophers currently rank in the mid-teens, depending on the poll. UNLV — which is ranked as high as second — will also be in Florida, as well as three other teams ranked in the top 20.
Against such a talented level of competition, there’s no telling how the Gophers are going to do this weekend. Their results have been shaky this spring. At meets against other highly-ranked teams, Minnesota has finished as low as 12th.
But after poor results at several major invitationals, the Gophers walked away with a tournament win last weekend. Minnesota beat runner-up Northwestern by five strokes, leading coach John Means to think his team could get hot in a hurry.
“They’ve been playing real well,” Means said. “There have just been flashes of how well we can play.”
The tough competition won’t end after this weekend. Minnesota will run into another strong field at next weekend’s meet at MacGregor Downs in North Carolina.
“I think where we finish will give us a good basis to see how we’re going to finish at NCAAs,” sophomore and defending NCAA champion James McLean said.
The Gophers finished seventh at last year’s NCAA tournament and are openly talking about a top-three finish at this year’s tournament, which they will host at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.
But if Minnesota does get hot it might not last long; the Gophers have four weeks off between April 11 and May 8. Senior Adam Dooley says the vacation is a carry-over from last year’s solid play.
“It’s because last year we played so well at the NCAA tournament,” Dooley said. “We got invited to more prestigious tournaments this year that are three days instead of two. The NCAA only allows us to play a certain number of rounds, so we can’t do as many tournaments.”
Opinions of the four-week layoff are mixed, but it will at least give McLean’s tendinitis-stricken hands time to heal.
“It’s good to have a break, a bit of a breather,” McLean said. “We’ll get our time to go out there and practice. Hopefully we’ll come back fresh.”
ù ESPN will carry portions of the tournament live on Saturday and Sunday. The tournament is the only college golf tournament to be televised live.