Mendez helps Gophers to fifth overall

Minnesota's Jose Mendez plays at the season-opening Gopher Invitational at Windsong Farm Golf Club on Sept. 9, 2013.

Daily File Photo, Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota’s Jose Mendez plays at the season-opening Gopher Invitational at Windsong Farm Golf Club on Sept. 9, 2013.

Brad Bobel

After struggling in recent tournaments, the Gophers needed to put on a solid performance to build some momentum heading into the Big Ten championship next weekend. 
 
Minnesota did just that in Iowa City this weekend, posting one of its lowest team scores all season and a fifth-place finish at even par (287-289-288 — 864).
 
“We came to play, and it showed in all three rounds,” head coach John Carlson said. “All five guys came to play, and it really gave us a chance to win.”
 
In previous tournaments, the top three golfers — junior Jon DuToit, sophomore Jose Mendez and freshman Rúnar Arnórsson — have been keeping the team afloat
as Carlson searched for an answer in the other two spots. 
 
This weekend, freshmen Riley Johnson and Charlie Duensing responded, with Johnson finishing second among Gophers golfers.
 
“We can’t just win with three guys ready to play. We need all five,” Johnson said. “We all need confidence going in that we can shoot under par.”
 
The Gophers understand how important the fourth and fifth golfers are to their success.
 
“I’ve been asking for it and begging them to step up,” Carlson said. “They had a couple rounds at par and got us back in the tournament. There were some growing pains at the start of the season, but we are past that now.”
 
Mendez, the team’s top golfer, was the only one who finished lower than Johnson did.
 
After struggling to post consistently low rounds in recent tournaments, Mendez stepped up and finished every round under par.
 
Mendez was third overall, shooting less than 70 in two rounds and posting a 7-under par on the tournament (71-69-69 — 209). 
 
“He got his ball in play today, and his driver really took advantage of his other strengths,” Carlson said. “He was really sharp from tee to green.”
 
Johnson, the fourth golfer, bounced back from a tough last tournament and placed in a tie for 17th scoring a 1-over par (70-73-74 — 217).
 
His improved putting and driving off the tee has helped him post low rounds.
 
“I was confident off the tee, but I had some misses,” Johnson said. “I’ve been working on my putting routine, and it has gotten better. You have to have confidence and be committed to the stroke.”
 
DuToit was one stroke behind Johnson, finishing tied for 21st with a 2-over par (72-73-73 — 218).
 
Arnórsson’s eagle in the middle of his third round helped him finish at 5-over par, placing him in a tie for 32nd.
 
And Duensing, posting an 8-over par 80 in his second round, bounced back and finished the tournament with a 1-over par 73 to finish tied for 49th. 
 
“He was disappointed [with the 80], but I challenged him to go out there and help the team,” Carlson said. “He had some good saves [on the green], but it could have been better.”
 
All five Gophers posted consistent rounds both days.
 
“We try and practice that consistency in practice, and now we finally see it come out in a tournament,” Carlson said. “It helps that they are starting to see the same type of shot time and time again.”