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Four under 80 the key as Minnesota aims for the top half of the Big Ten

The Gophers’ fourth score has usually been their downfall. They look to change that.

The concept of success is rarely easy to describe.

Usually, it hinges on multiple factors, and it’s difficult to point to just one thing a team can do to attain it.

But in the case of Minnesota’s women’s golf team, the path to success is relatively simple.

Card four scores under 80.

“We can have three really good scores, but the fourth hurts us a lot of the time,” senior Terra Petsinger said. “Getting that last score in the 70s is the key to us finishing in the top half of the Big Ten.”

Such a finish would be a boon to a program that finished dead last in the Big Ten’s 2004 spring season and was nearly cut from the University’s budget altogether in 2001.

This year’s squad is led by the Petsinger, the lone senior. Third-year coach Katie Hanneman said Petsinger is “huge” in leading the team both on the course in scoring and by example.

“She’s got the experience, and she’s proven herself on the course,” Hanneman said. “She never gives up and gives everyone else a great example.”

Indeed, Petsinger has led Minnesota in two of the three events this season and tied for ninth overall in the other.

Petsinger tied for first with a 75 during the weekend in a rain-shortened Snowbird Intercollegiate in Tampa, Fla., leading the Gophers to second place out of 16 teams.

In addition, she was basically the lone bright spot for Minnesota at the Lady Gamecock on March 11-13 in Columbia, S.C., with a 21-over 237. The score was good for 13th place at a meet in which the Gophers finished 11th out of 12 teams and didn’t have another top-25 finisher.

In short, Petsinger is the heart and soul of the team.

But both Hanneman and Petsinger said it’s not Petsinger’s play that will determine the team’s overall success. Rather, they said, it’s how the bottom two or three golfers in the rotation perform that will determine how the team fares the rest of the way.

“The responsibility should really be spread out among everyone,” Petsinger said. “But it comes down to our fourth, fifth and sixth golfers.”

In sum, somebody needs to step up.

Petsinger said junior Jessica Thomas and freshman Emily Brand are two golfers who have impressed her so far.

But Petsinger said Sarah Butler’s return from a broken ankle might be the most important thing. Hanneman said Butler is probably the second- or third-strongest golfer on the team.

“To be honest, a lot depends on Sarah,” Petsinger said. “If she can come back, I really think that will get us going into the tournaments.”

Hanneman said that if Butler returns, which she said might happen as soon as the Purdue Invitational on April 9-10, she likes the team’s chances to improve on last year’s finish.

“Anything’s possible,” Hanneman said. “If we golf like we can, we can surprise some people.”

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