Tough NCAA course caters to men’s golf

Ben Goessling

Listening to Brad James talk about the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships running May 29 to June 1, you’d think Minnesota’s Australian-born head coach was brushing up on his United States history with a Civil War lesson.

After all, James spent a good deal of time talking about the rift between the North and South.

The national championships will be played at Ohio State’s Scarlet course, a 7,236-yard monster boasting thick rough, tight fairways and hard greens.

But the excitement in James’ voice grew when talking about the course, because he figures southern teams used to making birdies in bunches will have trouble playing such a tough track.

“The southern teams have such disrespect for the northern teams,” he said. “When they get on a course like the Scarlet course, they’re one or two over par and they panic because they’re not familiar with it.”

The Gophers have practiced at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, the site of the 2002 PGA Championship, to prepare for the test the Scarlet course will offer.

“None of us have played the course, so we wanted to get familiar with the thick rough and fast greens,” James said. “I think the course will play to our strengths – we hit the ball long and straight and putt well.”

Sophomores Simon Nash and Justin Smith represent Minnesota’s best chances for its second individual title in five years. Nash finished fourth at the Big Ten Championships, and Smith tied for first at the NCAA West Regional.

Minnesota’s highest finishes in the national championships came in the two years when the Gophers boasted an individual national champion. Louis Lick’s victory led Minnesota to a second-place finish in 1944, and James McLean’s championship in 1998 pushed the Gophers to seventh.

The presence of Nash and Smith bodes well for Minnesota, who is looking to earn some respect at the tournament from both opponents and school administrators who planned to cut the program.

“We’ve played the whole season with a chip on our shoulder,” James said. “Hopefully we can finish in the top 10 and prove people wrong.”

Women’s track and field

Minnesota’s women’s track team qualified three athletes for the NCAA outdoor championships running May 29 through June 1 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Freshman Tahesia Harrigan will look to build on her second-place finish in the 60-meter dash at the NCAA indoor championships. She qualified in the 100- and 200-meter dashes with the fastest times of any newcomer to the national meet.

Additionally, freshman Barbora Spotakova reached the meet in the javelin and heptathlon, and junior Shani Marks qualified in the triple jump.

Men’s track and field

After concluding its most successful season in three years by finishing second at the Big Ten outdoor championships, Minnesota’s men’s track and field team will send three athletes to the NCAA outdoor championships.

Sophomore Mikael Jakobsson and senior Bob Quade both qualified in the 400-meter hurdles, and senior Toby Henkels reached the meet in the 800-meter run.

Inclement weather this spring resulted in slow qualifying times, and numerous Gophers athletes narrowly missed the meet.

Men’s tennis

Minnesota’s Thomas Haug and Harsh Mankad were defeated by No. 11 Andrew Colombo and Mark Kovacs from Auburn, 6-4, 7-5, in the quarterfinals of the NCAA men’s tennis Championships.

Despite the loss, both Haug and Mankad earned All-America honors and became Minnesota’s first All-Americans since 1995.

Minnesota finished the 2001-02 season with a 17-8 record and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. Highlights during the year included a 4-3 win over eventual national champion Southern Cal in March.

Expected to be ranked in the top 25 in the final poll, the Golden Gophers will return their entire singles lineup next season and five of their six primary doubles players.