Gophers take 10th in ASU Thunderbird

Brad Bobel

The Gophers are searching for golfers to step up.
 
But that didn’t happen this weekend, when a pair of freshmen golfers struggled in Arizona.
 
Minnesota finished 10th at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational, shooting a team 28-over par (288-291-289 — 868). But the team’s bottom two golfers finished with a combined 31-over par. 
 
“[The tournament was] very similar to the last three tournaments,” head coach John Carlson said. “Three guys played well most rounds, but we couldn’t count a good fourth score.”
 
Carlson said pressure and the team’s inexperience have led to the high scores.
 
“Our four and five guys need to keep improving, and we’ll grow as a team when they do,” he said.
 
Minnesota’s three consistent golfers — Jose Mendez, Jon DuToit and Rúnar Arnórsson —finished in the team’s top three.
 
Arnórsson, a freshman, led the Gophers, shooting a 5-over (70-71-74 — 215) to finish in a tie for 28th.
 
“He’s been getting better every week. We knew the upsides he had,” Carlson said. “He’s a little more mature, being a 22-year-old freshman, and has really been coming into his own.”
 
After the first two rounds, Arnórsson led the team at 1-over par, tying him for 15th place.
 
“I’ve been playing a lot better in the last three weeks,” Arnórsson said. “I knew I was tied for 15th, and it was fun to be in the mix.”
 
Sophomore Mendez (75-70-71 — 216) and junior DuToit (70-76-70 — 216) finished one stroke behind him, shooting 6-over par and tying for 34th.
 
Mendez, who has been struggling recently, bounced back to finish strong in the last two rounds.
 
“He has high expectations and doesn’t put up with poor rounds and excuses,” Carlson said. “He needs to control the game like he’s used to.”
 
DuToit had a solid first and third round, which set him up for a strong finish. He tied with Mendez for 34th despite a tough second round.
 
“His rhythm in the second round was off. The coaching staff talked to him about it, and he really grinded the final nine holes,” Carlson said.
 
Freshmen Riley Johnson and Charlie Duensing rounded out the bottom, finishing fourth and fifth on the team. Johnson shot 13-over par (74-74-75 — 223) to tie for 64th and Duensing posted an 18-over par (74-80-74 — 228) to tie for 72nd.
 
Minnesota faced a tough challenge during the tournament’s first day and played 36 holes. 
 
“It was tough to play 36 holes. We haven’t played 36 since Big-Ten match play,” Mendez said. “You have to be mentally prepared to compete for 10 hours in a 
day.”
 
Because of the team’s subpar performance in Arizona — especially from struggling freshmen — Carlson plans on switching up the lineup in the future.
 
“We will hold open qualifying for the next tournament, and we’re really looking for the next young guy to step up,” Carlson said. “We will give all our guys as many chances to prove themselves as need be.”