Minnesota places fourth at first tournament

Sophomore Jose Mendez paced the Gophers, tying for fifth place overall.

Sophomore Jose Mendez swings at Windsong Farm Golf Club on Sunday at the Gopher Invitational. Mendez tied for fifth at the tournament and the Gophers placed fourth overall.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Sophomore Jose Mendez swings at Windsong Farm Golf Club on Sunday at the Gopher Invitational. Mendez tied for fifth at the tournament and the Gophers placed fourth overall.

Betsy Helfand

Jose Mendez placed first among his teammates in Minnesota’s final five tournaments last season.

And on Sunday and Monday, Mendez picked up right where he left off — the sophomore led his team to a fourth-place finish in the Gopher Invitational.

“Our leader on the golf course came to play,” head coach John Carlson said.

Minnesota finished behind Baylor, California and Charlotte at 31-over par.

Junior Jon DuToit said the team didn’t finish as strong as it would have liked, but it can only build moving forward.

DuToit finished third among Gophers golfers behind Mendez and Tyler Lowenstein, who both finished in the top 10.

Lowenstein, who was the top amateur at last month’s North Dakota Open, continued his success in the Gopher Invitational.

“I ask all these guys, if you have confidence, [to] ride the confidence. And certainly in golf [that] goes a long way,” Carlson said.

Lowenstein was Minnesota’s top golfer at the Gopher Invitational last year and said the course at Windsong Farm Golf Club “sets up well” for him.

“[It has] wider fairways and I can kind of rely on my irons and my putting, which is nice,” Lowenstein said.

As a team, Carlson said he was happy with the Gophers’ short game, especially considering the weather conditions.

“It was really windy out here the last couple days, so that kind of made it a little more tough with the water coming into play and the deep rough out here,” DuToit said.

DuToit called the team’s short game “sharp” but said it could work on driving the ball moving forward.

Prior to the Gopher Invitational, Minnesota hadn’t had a “formal practice” yet with its freshmen, Carlson said.

Still, five Gophers golfers competed as individuals, including all three of the team’s freshmen.

“I wanted them to go out there and act as a team, and that’s why we had five of them,” Carlson said.

He specifically noted the performances of freshmen Riley Johnson and Rúnar Arnórsson, two golfers who could become big contributors for the Gophers.

Minnesota doesn’t compete again until Sept. 21, which will give Carlson a chance to learn more about his young team.

“I have to have some time to really assess and break down where everyone is at,” he said.

But for the team’s first performance, the Gophers seem happy with where they are.

“I know we have a lot of new faces on our team this year, so it was good to get off to a decent start,” DuToit said.