Men finish eighth at high-powered tourney

The 2006 NCAA champion Oklahoma State Sooners finished fifth.

The Minnesota men’s golf team was unable to improve its national ranking this weekend, finishing in eighth place at the star-studded Fighting Illini Invitational.

The 12-team tournament promised to be a showdown between the country’s top programs, including No. 1 defending national champion Oklahoma State.

But Minnesota was unable to capitalize, finishing behind teams coach Brad James considered very competitive both this weekend and for the national title.

“To finish eighth in that field isn’t bad, so I wasn’t disappointed in the finish,” he said. “You can’t win them all.”

The Gophers scored a team total 45-over par 885 to finish 21 strokes behind tournament winner Duke. Oklahoma State finished fifth, 12 strokes behind the Blue Devils.

Leading Minnesota with a seventh-place tie was junior Clayton Rask.

“I’m very pleased with Clayton, he’s solidifying his spot on the starting lineup,” James said.

Rask fired a 5-over par 215 over the weekend, only four shots behind the individual medalist Niklas Lemke of Arizona State.

“I struggled a little bit and definitely could have played better,” Rask said. “But things are starting to come together for the team.”

Senior Niall Turner tied for 11th place with a 7-over par 217, while senior Bronson La’Cassie finished in a three-way tie for 20th. La’Cassie shot an 11-over-par 221 over the two-day event.

“We really didn’t play our best, and I didn’t really play well at all,” La’Cassie said. “We had to take a high score in just about every round and a couple (Monday).”

Sophomore Victor Almstrom carded a 23-over par 233, finishing the weekend in 50th place.

“(Victor) needs to start shooting some lower scores to show that he deserves that position on the starting lineup,” James said.

Junior Patrick Datz rounded out the Gophers’ score with a 26-over par 236. He tied for 55th overall.

Next weekend, Minnesota heads to the 2006 Golfweek/Ping Preview at Golden Horseshoe Golf Club in Williamsburg, Va. – a tournament that will feature many of the top teams from last year’s NCAA Championships.

“We’ve got a big tournament coming up next weekend,” La’Cassie said. “We just need four guys playing well.”

Lehman donates to U

Even though his U.S. Ryder Cup team was defeated for the third straight time, Minnesota alumnus Tom Lehman has something to smile about.

The captain of the U.S. team donated $50,000 to the University this week.

“Anytime that you get a donation from a former player, an alumni, it definitely helps in the big picture of things,” James said.

Through the Golf for Business & Life program, each U.S. team member can donate $100,000 to a school or schools of his choosing. An additional $100,000 is given to a charity of the player’s choosing.

The Golf for Business & Life program is designed to teach college students how to use golf as a business tool. The program is part of the PGA of America.

Lehman, who golfed at Minnesota, split his school donation between Minnesota and Cal Poly State.

The Lehman Family Foundation will get his charity donation.

Overall, the U.S. Ryder Cup team donated more than $10.4 million to more than 26 colleges and universities and 101 charities since the program began in 1999.