Gophers get bid to NCAA regional

by Ryan Schuster

As anticipated, the Gophers men’s golf team received an invitation to the NCAA Central Regional on Tuesday.
“We’ve expected to get there all year,” Gophers coach John Means said before learning that his team was included in the 62-team NCAA regional field. “So it shouldn’t cause any excitement.”
Although the Gophers’ being selected to the regionals did not come as a surprise, it may come as a relief to a team that has had an up-and-down spring season. Minnesota has placed in the top five in three of its six meets this spring, but seemed to suffer a letdown after each good performance.
Minnesota was one of six teams from District IV to get a bid to the regional, which will be held May 15-17 at the Oklahoma Golf Course in Norman, Okla. Northwestern, Ohio State, Miami (Ohio), Michigan and Indiana were also invited.
Twenty-one teams from three districts will compete in the Central Regional, with the top 10 teams and top two individuals not on one of those teams advancing to the NCAA championships June 1-7 in Chicago.
The six-member NCAA selection committee made its decisions based on a computer-generated power rating, strength of schedule and how well the teams were playing at the end of the season, among other criteria.
U looks to end Big Ten title drought
Minnesota hopes to win its first conference title in 25 years at the Big Tens, held Friday through Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.
The last time Minnesota won the conference tournament was in 1972. None of the current Gophers were even born before 1972, and Tom Lehman was still in junior high school, six years away from joining the Gophers golf team and becoming an All-American.
Despite Minnesota’s auspicious record at the Big Tens in recent years — the team has failed to place higher than third in its last six years — Means still believes the Gophers can accomplish their pre-season goal of winning the conference title.
“They know they can do it,” Means said. “We’ve only played Ohio State once, and they beat us. But we’ve beaten all the other teams, so we know we can beat them. We just have to go out and do it.”
Blame it onthe rain
On Saturday, the Gophers and the rest of the 18-team field at the Windmill Lakes Golf Club had to play through four rain delays and intermittent thunderstorms during the second and final day of the Kent Invitational in Ravenna, Ohio.
“That was some of the worst weather we’ve ever played in,” Means said. “It took nine hours to play the last 18 holes. The golf course was actually unplayable for the last five holes, and they played the tournament anyway.”
Means and his players were upset over the decision to keep playing amid thunder and lighting on Saturday.
“After the third or fourth rain delay, the course was literally unplayable,” junior Rob Kerr said. “There was water in all the fairways, but the coach from Kent State really wanted to get in the round … to make sure they had a chance (of advancing to regionals).”
The determination of the Kent State coach, who was the host coach for the tournament, wound up hurting the Gophers. Minnesota ended the first day of competition in second place behind the eventual winner, Northwestern. But a poor putting performance on the waterlogged greens dropped the team into a tie for fourth place at the conclusion of the tournament.
Had play been stopped, all the teams would have finished where they were after the first day of competition. Kent State was not invited to the Central Regional.
Sand Traps
ù Freshman Martin Le Mesurier appears to have regained the form he had at the beginning of the spring season. In the first three meets this spring, Le Mesurier either placed first or tied for first on the team. Then he struggled to a tie for 59th place at the Marshall Invitational on April 11-12. At the Kent Invitational, Le Mesurier was again the team’s top finisher and tied for 11th place overall out of 95 competitors.
ù Northwestern has won four tournaments in a row, tying the record for most consecutive victories by a team in District IV. The original record was set in fall 1994 by the Gophers, who went on to place sixth at the Big Tens and advanced to the NCAA tournament. That team failed to qualify for the NCAA finals by eight strokes.