Gophers take 2nd in Spring season opener in South Carolina

Minnesota has improved since its last meet, where the women finished 14th of 18.

John Hageman

The opening of a new season has brought new results for the Minnesota womenâÄôs golf team. After ending their fall season at the Las Vegas Invitational in a season-worst 14th out of 18 , the Gophers came out of the third and final round of the Edwin Watts/Kiawah Island Classic one stroke out of first place Tuesday in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. The Gophers moved up the leaderboard every day of the 33-team tournament, ending Sunday in ninth before finishing Monday with a second-round best 297 to move up to fourth place coming into TuesdayâÄôs final round. âÄúThey played great,âÄù Minnesota head coach Kristine Wessinger said. âÄúEveryone really held together âĦ I was happy with the finish.âÄù At one point late in the final round, the Gophers were tied for first place with Miami, who would go on to win the tournament, but Wessinger said that the results were not on the playersâÄô minds as much as their individual play. Juniors Teresa Puga and Mary Narzisi both shot a team-best 1-under in the final round. Puga led the Gophers with a 3-over-par 219 to land in a tie for fifth overall. Puga, a native of Spain, said she was especially impressed with the way the team came back from some early mishaps and mistakes in the first round to almost taking the victory and said the teamâÄôs hard work in between the seasons really paid off. âÄúItâÄôs not about all the results,âÄù Puga said. âÄúWe really believe that we can do it âĦ and thatâÄôs why I think weâÄôre going to rock this spring.âÄù Junior Michelle Eldin finished with an 8-over 224, good enough for a tie for 18th overall, while fellow junior Samantha Sommers finished in a tie for 35th with a 12-over 228. Narzisi, a junior, bounced back from a disappointing start and improved by 10 strokes between her first and final rounds, finishing with a 13-over 229. Freshman Jaclyn Shepherd rounded out the GophersâÄô lineup, finishing in a tie for 65th with a 16-over 232. Nina Muehl of East Tennessee State and Oral RobertsâÄô Crystal Reeves shared medalist honors, each finishing at 3-under. Despite falling just short of the top spot, Sommers said the Gophers will gain some confidence from their improved play. âÄúJust seeing how everyone can improve from the first day to the second day is just a confidence boost as it is,âÄù Sommers said. âÄúWeâÄôre just excited to go to our next tournament and hopefully win.âÄù The Gophers will take this momentum into the March 5-7 Rio Verde Invitational in Phoenix.