Among the usual grease-stained pizza boxes, soup cans and splatterings of week-old leftovers, local sanitation workers might find items in the garbage this week that could confuse the definition of trash.
The Gophers men’s golf team will be responsible for this improved image of garbage as they celebrate the conclusion of a rigorous summer and fall season.
“We basically throw the clubs away,” captain Adam Dooley said of what the team does when the tedious schedule came to end.
The Gophers’ four-tournament fall season concluded Monday with a second place finish in the 15-team Missouri Bluffs Intercollegiate held at the Missouri Bluffs Golf Club in St. Louis, Mo.
The short season was packed with highlights — a first place finish at the Northern Intercollegiate at Les Bolstad and the Windon Intercollegiate at Evanston, Ill., and a fourth place finish at the NCAA Preview at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska. Seniors Bill Thompson and Dooley recorded individual wins at the Northern Intercollegiate and the Windon, respectively.
But even with an impressive showing on the course, coach John Means was disappointed, saying that if his team had played up to its ability, they would have four first place trophies.
The Gophers won’t resume the season until Feb. 1 at the Phoenix-Alumni challenge. In the meantime, Dooley, Thompson, sophomore James McLean, junior Martin LeMesurier and senior Jeff Barney will try to fend off challengers for a traveling team roster spot.
In his ninth season as coach, Means considers the 1998 Gopher team as his most competitive team.
“I was telling somebody, `We aren’t the best team in the country, but we can beat the best team in the country,'” Means said.
The Gophers hope to claim the supremacy title in June, when the NCAA championships come to Hazeltine. Means knows the team must first qualify for the right to tee off at Hazeltine, but he says competing for the national title in front of the hometown crowd has been an incentive.
McLean is especially ecstatic about the tournament taking place at a familiar course because he is the defending NCAA champion. In the NCAA previews, McLean finished in a seventh-place tie, shooting 4-over, and must shoot better in June if he wants to repeat.
“I’ll play it a few more times and somehow work out a game plan,” McLean said of his strategy to retain the title.
McLean added one more part to his plan saying it would help if “my Australian mate Ben Meyers would come over here and compete against me.” But Meyer’s fate depends on the NCAA.
On October 20, the NCAA will determine whether Meyers is eligible to play collegiate golf for Minnesota. To compete at the college level in the United States, a student-athlete must take the SAT before enrolling.
Meyers spent last year competing at an Australian university and didn’t take the SAT because it is not required there. Upon deciding to come to Minnesota, Meyers took the test, but the NCAA is claiming he should have taken it before going to school in Australia. No one is wishing more for his arrival than McLean, but Means said the entire team is anxious.
“The guys here have heard James talking about how talented he is, so they are all excited,” Means said. “But then again James didn’t play well when he first competed. The guys were like, `What have we got here? He can’t play.'”
But McLean proved them wrong. Now, along with his teammates, he wants to show the nation that a northern school can be a powerhouse in an outdoor sport.
“Last year the whole plan was just to get to nationals and prove to ourselves that we could compete with the other teams,” McLean said. “Now we want to win.”