Golfers shaky going into Big Tens

Jim Schortemeyer

The Minnesota women’s golf team has more stumble than rumble in its stride as the squad rolls into the Big Ten championships today in West Lafayette, Ind.
The Gophers recently finished sixth at a meet of Big Ten teams, but they’re still talking big for this weekend’s conference tournament.
“It’s not how you got into the situation,” senior Donna Boom said, “but how you got out.”
Boom was talking about her own game, but she could have been referring to the whole team. The Gophers dug a hole in the first round of last weekend’s tournament at Ohio State and couldn’t recover.
Now the team has one last chance at getting out of a bad situation, or at least earning some respect. Minnesota has four seniors in its five-player lineup, and coach Kathy Williams is retiring at the end of June.
Williams, who directed a photographer around a light practice Tuesday, contends she’s somewhat happy with last weekend’s poor outcome.
“If it had to happen, I’m glad it happened there,” Williams said. “That course showed us we need to work on some things.”
It also showed that Minnesota has a lot of ground to make up. The Gophers finished 19 strokes behind fifth-place Michigan State. Still, Boom says last weekend’s ugly turnout hasn’t lowered expectations.
“We want to win,” Boom said. “We always want to finish in the top three. When you look at last fall, Michigan State won the Big Ten preview meet, and we can beat them. We have beaten them. Anything can happen.”
Minnesota has beaten the Spartans once this spring (although the Gophers did lose to Michigan State twice), but hasn’t beaten Indiana or Ohio State. The Hoosiers and Buckeyes have combined to win 13 of the 17 Big Ten tournaments, and Indiana has won three of the last four.
This spring has been a new experience for the Gophers. They’ve been able to compete with Indiana and Ohio State, but still haven’t finished within 10 strokes of either team. While Williams is happy that players have shown sudden improvements in their game, she knows all her players will need their “A-games” when the tournament starts today.
“You never know who’s going to step up,” Williams said. “But for Big Tens, they all have to step up.”
While players are thinking of their games, they’re also thinking about their departing coach. Williams announced earlier this week she was retiring to run a golf school for women after this season.
Sophomore Jenny Bruun — the only underclassman who traveled regularly with the four seniors — figures to be in on the coach selection committee.
“I think I had the finger pointed at me,” Bruun said. “But we have a tight-knit team and we’re going to agree on the issues we want addressed.”
While the golfers say they were surprised by Williams’ announcement, they say her retirement has sparked the team.
“We have to win it for coach,” senior Melanie Lepp said.
Whether the Gophers can finish close to Indiana and Ohio State is questionable, but Lepp did have an interesting take on Minnesota’s recent stumbling and its chances at this weekend’s tournament.
“You don’t want to peak too soon,” Lepp said. “If we can do that at Purdue it would be nice. It’s our last chance.”