Minnesota holds only home tourney of the season in Minnesota Invitational

by David McCoy

Last year, Minnesota’s women’s golf team only finished one tournament in the top half of the competition.

That tournament, which the Gophers won, was the Minnesota Invitational.

Minnesota is looking for a repeat of last year this Saturday and Sunday at Les Bolstad Golf Course – except for the “only time they finished in the top half” part.

The Minnesota Invitational was the Gophers’ second meet of the season last year, and they didn’t fare any better than a seventh out of 14 the rest of the year.

They also finished last in the Big Ten Tournament.

But the Gophers have a positive outlook for this year, and they talk openly about turning things around, starting with this tournament.

“Last year was last year, and this year is this year,” team captain Terra Petsinger said.

Head coach Katie Weiss echoed that statement.

“I just hope that with every meet, we get a little better,” Weiss said.

Petsinger said she expects the team to make a huge overall improvement in the Big Ten this year. She said she bases this prediction on the Gophers’ increased depth.

The Gophers will have 12 eligible golfers on this year’s team, compared to last year’s six.

Petsinger said the newcomers put a healthy pressure on last year’s returning players.

“We have a lot more competition this year,” she said. “Having so many other players pushes us to play better, as if everyone is right on everyone else’s tail.”

Although it’s extremely early in the golf season, Weiss said her Gophers are taking this tournament seriously.

“But we aren’t going to worry,” Weiss said. “We’re just going to try to play well, and things will take care of themselves.”

Weiss added the Gophers’ ability to putt well will make or break their chances at repeating last year’s win.

She said she is expecting big things from Petsinger this year after a huge spring in which the three-time letter winner, as an individual amateur, lost the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship by only one hole during match play.

Along with Petsinger, the team’s only senior, Weiss said she is expecting junior Sarah Butler and sophomore Samantha Braschler, a transfer from Michigan State, to make a strong showing in this weekend’s tournament.

“I’m definitely counting on them,” Weiss said.

Braschler said she likes the Gophers’ chances, and personally feels confident going into this weekend.

“Everyone in our top five needs to play golf how they are capable of,” Braschler said. “As long as we play how we can, we should win.”

Because of last weekend’s Lady Northern Invitational in Ann Arbor, Mich., Tuesday was the team’s first full practice of the year.

But Petsinger said she isn’t worried.

“I don’t really see that as much of an issue,” she said. “We haven’t had many team practices yet, but actually everyone has been practicing on their own for quite a while, getting ready.”

Weiss said team members have been focusing on their fundamentals at practice this week.

“We’ve been concentrating mostly on our course management,” she said. “Along with our strength and conditioning.”

Braschler said this week’s practice has gone well.

“We are all really excited,” she said. “Everyone’s got a good attitude and high expectations.”