Minnesota finishes 13th in Gopher Invitational

Erik Van Rooyen and Jon DuToit led the Gophers individually.

Drew Claussen

Plagued by slow starts throughout much of last spring, the Gophers men’s golf team began the same way this fall. This time, however, a strong field was partly to blame.

Minnesota finished 13th out of 15 teams at its only home event of the season, the Gopher Invitational, on Sunday and Monday at the Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata, Minn.

“Every year the Gopher Invitational has become a bigger and better event,” head coach John Carlson said. “I have certainly tried to bring the field up to a level that everyone in the state can be proud of.”

The event featured five top-25 teams in the Golf Coaches Association of America poll, including one of the elite teams in the country, California, which ended up running away with the competition.

California finished with a team score of 862; the Gophers finished with 932. Kent State’s Cory Conners won the individual portion with a three-round score of 213.

The Gophers sat in 12th after the 36 holes played Sunday. Minnesota shot 306 in the first round and 313 in the second.

“We came out flat,” Carlson said. “It was not the start that I had expected out of a fairly veteran team.”

On Monday, the teams finished up the final rounds on a tough course with brutally windy conditions, Carlson said.

“Our team played a whole lot better [Monday],” he said. “Maybe our score didn’t reflect that, but I believe we had maybe the eighth- or ninth-best team score of the day.”

Senior Erik Van Rooyen (77-75-76 — 228) and freshman Jon DuToit (73-79-76 — 228) led the Gophers individually, and both tied for 22nd place.

“With nine of the top- 40 teams assembled here, that’s 45 really talented players,” Carlson said. “To be able to have a freshman step up in his first tournament on a very tough golf course in front of his family and friends was certainly something that he can be very proud of.”

Carlson said the fall season is important for teams in the upper-Midwest because they’re on an even playing field with teams from the South. In the spring, southern teams have an advantage because they can use the preceding winter months to practice.

Teams compete in 12 events total, spanning the fall and spring seasons.

“We’re, as coaches, hoping that we’re on a level playing field with some of the southern schools,” Carlson said. “We get after it in the fall with the hopes that we’ll start out hot.”

The combination of a strong field, conditions and a slow start left the Gophers at 13th in their opening tournament. That combination doesn’t scare Carlson, who said he’s confident that his team will contend in the Big Ten this year.

Minnesota finished seventh out of 12 teams at the Big Ten championship last spring.