Gophers finish 8th at Big Ten championships in James’ final meet

This was the first time in three years Minn. did not finish in the top two.

Gophers finish 8th at Big Ten championships in James’ final meet

John Hageman

It certainly was not how Brad James wanted to end his career at Minnesota. With an eighth-place finish at the Big Ten championships at Windsong Farm Golf Club over the weekend, the Minnesota menâÄôs golf team likely wonâÄôt be invited to an NCAA regional qualifier with an at-large bid, and its season will end in disappointment. The Gophers had finished in at least second in the Big Ten for the past three seasons . James will be taking a position as High Performance Director for Golf Australia and Australian Institute of Sport after three seasons as the director of golf for Minnesota . The Gophers won their first NCAA national championship in 2002 while James was the interim coach and won three Big Ten championships in the past 10 seasons . But this spring season has been disappointing for James, with his team failing to finish in the top five since late September and finishing in dead last in two tournaments this spring. The finish over the weekend was especially disappointing, considering the Gophers were more familiar with the course in Maple Plain, Minn., than the other participants. âÄúAt this stage you need to learn how to play under pressure,âÄù James said. âÄúThey didnâÄôt do it this weekend and havenâÄôt done it all spring.âÄù Illinois led after each round and took home the Big Ten crown for the second straight year by shooting a 21-over par 1,157 . NorthwesternâÄôs David Lipsky received medalist honors for shooting a 3-under 281. Minnesota shot a 54-over 1,190, but moved up the leaderboard after each of the first two rounds . The Gophers were in last place after one round of play Friday, shooting a 17-over 301 . The Gophers came back later that afternoon to shoot a 5-over 289 to move up to ninth place. The team moved up one more spot going into the fourth and final round Sunday by shooting a 21-over 305 Saturday after battling high winds all day. âÄúAfter that slow start, we really had to play some good golf to come back,âÄù junior Donald Constable said. âÄúIt improved a little bit, but I think everyoneâÄôs a little disappointed and everyone knew they could have played a little better.âÄù Constable and senior Thomas Campbell were neck-and-neck for the GophersâÄô top spot throughout the final round Sunday, but Constable edged his teammate by one stroke to finish in a tie for 16th by shooting a 10-over 294, while Campbell landed in a tie for 20th . Constable, who started on the 10th hole, had three birdies in his first nine holes Sunday, but followed it up with a quadruple-bogey on the first hole by knocking the ball into a hazard. Sophomore Derek Chang was the only Gophers player to shoot under par all weekend with a 1-under performance in the second round. He finished in a tie for 32nd by shooting an 18-over 302. Senior Ben Pisani struggled throughout the first day, shooting a 154 to put him in a tie for 47th going into Saturday . Pisani finished the tournament in a tie for 39th by shooting a 20-over 304, which put him in a tie with freshman Erik Van Rooyen. Pisani said he may have put too much pressure on himself to play well in his final tournament with the team, which may have led to his poor performance. âÄúI really didnâÄôt play well all week,âÄù Pisani said. âÄúI really wanted to have a good week. It would have been really special.âÄù Although James is departing after a successful career in Minnesota, he hopes that the rough spring season they endured will be a wake-up call for the players. âÄúWe know the programâÄôs had a lot of success, but really for these kids itâÄôs a wake-up call,âÄù James said. âÄúThatâÄôs really the most important thing for me.âÄù