Women’s golf opens season by hosting invitational

Adam Fink

Minnesota women’s golf may have lost its two top players from the team which finished in 16th place at the NCAA Central Regional last season, but don’t tell that to head coach Melissa Arthur.

“I expect this team to be stronger than last year,” the third-year coach said. “I expect (our team) to be in the top of the Big Ten and for us to go to the NCAA Regionals again this season.”

Minnesota begins the 2001-02 campaign on Saturday when it hosts the Minnesota Invitational at the Les Bolstad Gold Course.

Expectations will be at their highest since Arthur took over two years ago. Arthur said the talent and determination is in place for an improved finish at the Big Ten championships in April.

Last season, then-seniors Jenny Brunn and Katie Bakken finished one and two in lowest stroke average on the team, leading the Gophers to a 4th-place finish at the Big Ten Championship. The team went to the NCAA Regionals in Indiana and earned its best finish since 1989.

With those two seniors gone to graduation, current seniors Cindy Cannon, Megan Stier, and junior Karyn Stordahl are expected to carry the 2001-02 squad.

In 2000, Cannon and Stier finished with the two lowest stroke averages behind the departed seniors. Arthur rewarded the pair by naming them co-captains for the upcoming season.

“I believe Megan and Cindy will add a lot of leadership to the team,” Arthur said. “They are both strong players and they worked hard over the summer improving their games.”

The coach said this year’s recruits and returning players will give her the most depth she has ever had.

Stordahl is expected to heavily contribute to the 12-player roster and enters the season as the Gophers number-one player.

Freshmen Terra Petsinger from North Dakota and Tai Kinney from Oregon, who was a top 50 junior amateur player, are expected to push the veterans for playing time and have already received praise from the coaching staff.

In addition, sophomore Karen Quintelier showed great improvement during practice and has earned a spot in the lineup for the season opener.

Arthur isn’t the only one expecting this year’s team to be competitive and successful.

“This year the players are puting in a lot of extra time and are working real hard,” Cannon said. “We want a Big Ten championship.”

Said Stier: “The freshmen are looking good and they should be able to step up and fill a spot. Our top seven players will be very solid.”

The competition for the Big Ten Championship title will be very tough this season.

“Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, and Michigan are all strong and very competitive,” Arthur said.

Michigan State lost only one player from last year’s Big Ten Champion team, while Northwestern and Michigan returned all of its players.

The Gophers play in 10 tournaments this year before heading to the University of Illinois for the conference championship.

In 1999, Arthur’s first season, her team finished in ninth place. Last season, the squad improved five spots. A similar jump is expected this season.

“I think we can finish in the top three this year at the Big Ten championships,” Arthur said. “And reaching the NCAA Regional is a tradition I would like to continue.”