Pair of Gophers takes top two spots at MGA Amateur

The University men’s golf team is on a roll.

Last week two Gophers, sophomore Andrew Paulson and junior Clayton Rask, finished one-two at the 2006 Minnesota Golf Association Amateur Championship at Midland Hills County Club in St. Paul.

“It’s incredible,” coach Brad James said of the one-two finish at the 103rd MGA Amateur Championship. “It’s the first time it has ever been done in the history of Gopher golf.”

Paulson led wire-to-wire thanks to a first round four-under par 68, and claimed his first MGA Amateur Championship by finishing at 8-under par 208.

This wasn’t the first time Paulson has won an amateur title. He won the MGA Players Championship earlier this summer – joining former Gophers great Tom Lehman as the only player to win both the Players Championship and Amateur Championship in the same year.

In high school, Paulson won the individual state championship and team title in 2004 while attending White Bear Lake High School. But he said this one might be a bit different.

“(The MGA is) a lot different,” he said. “It’s a lot bigger.”

Paulson withstood a late charge from Rask, who was in a three-way tie for third at 1-under par after two rounds, but moved into second place after carding a 4-under par 68 in his last round to finish three strokes behind Paulson at 211.

“It’s pretty good,” Rask said. “It’s just like, ‘You know what, we just finished 5- and 8- under.’ “

Rask said he considers tournaments such as the MGA bigger because of tougher competition and courses.

“You can compare (the courses) to some college courses,” Rask said. “They can make them just as tough if not harder.”

For Paulson, this was another shot for him to stake out the fifth and final spot on Minnesota’s playing roster.

“It was good,” Paulson said, “Just because we played off that final spot last year.”

James said he only sees the summer competition helping his squad grow stronger.

“It’s certainly a confidence boost for (Paulson) and for the other guys on the team that are three, four, five guys,” he said. “They get to look at themselves now and say, ‘You know what, I’ve got to work twice as hard because here is a guy who was fifth man last year, and he’s doing everything.’ “

Paulson might be keeping reserved for now, though.

“I’m sure he’ll come back and beat me sometime,” he said.

That chance may be likely as Gopher golfers travel together frequently at amateur events.

“Those tournaments are always good ones to get in, because they’re always great competition, and because we’re always playing against each other,” Rask said. “We try to make each other better.”

Gophers add another
The men’s golf team signed its fourth recruit for the class of 2006-2007.

Last week Justin Kaplan of Sugarland, Texas, became the first American in the Gophers’ newest recruiting class, joining Ben Pisani of Bribane, Australia, Thomas Campbell of New Zealand and Yu Katayama of Tokyo.

Kaplan’s recent golf accolades include a tie for sixth at the Texas Class 5A state high school tournament and a tie for 35th at a Hooters Tour event. Kaplan was the only amateur to make the cut in that event.