Mendez caps season with NCAA berth

Sophomore Jose Mendez swings at Windsong Farm Golf Club on September 7, 2014.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Sophomore Jose Mendez swings at Windsong Farm Golf Club on September 7, 2014.

Brad Bobel

After a rousing freshman campaign, Jose Mendez continued his dominance on the course for the Gophers throughout this season.
 
As a result, the sophomore will be Minnesota’s lone representative at NCAA regionals after finishing in the top five in the Big Ten championship two weeks ago.
 
He ended the regular season third at the Hawkeye Invitational and sustained that momentum into the postseason.
 
“In these last tournaments I’ve just been more patient, and I’ve been working really hard,” Mendez said. “I knew it all would pay off.”
 
After his stellar Big Ten championship performance, Mendez was named to the All-Big Ten First Team for the second consecutive year.
 
“I had a couple bad rounds in the middle of the season and wasn’t sure if I was going to make it [on the Big Ten First Team],” Mendez said. “But when I saw I was on the team, it just made me more excited to go out and practice even harder for regionals.”
 
Mendez always seems to turn up his performances at the end of the season, also coming on strong at the end of last season and tying for the individual Big Ten championship medal.
 
“He really gets up for the big events, and the postseason is where he wants to be,” head coach John Carlson said. “He wants to compete against the best players in the country, and I think he has the ability to rise to the occasion.”
 
Unlike last year when the Gophers made it to regionals, Mendez will be competing without the support of his team.
 
But this time around, Carlson will join him for the entire competition, where he has an opportunity to help Mendez.
 
“It will be a unique experience being with him 1-on-1. … I might be able to save him a shot or two on the rounds, which might put him over the edge,” Carlson said.
 
After already competing in last year’s NCAA regionals, Mendez now knows what to expect and what he needs to do to win.
 
“The only thing that we will talk about is to not put much pressure on himself,” Carlson said. “It’s easy to try and win the tournament on the first day, but in reality, you can only lose the tournament in the first day.”
 
With all the postseason experience that Mendez is getting, the young Minnesota team can only benefit from his continued success as it sees a fellow underclassmen succeed.
 
“Mendez’s success correlates with us,” freshman Riley Johnson said. “He’s only a sophomore and doing so well, and that tells us that we can do it, too.”
 
Mendez’s successes culminated throughout the season, and he finished the regular season with the third-best season stroke average in Minnesota history with a
71.5.
 
“He had a little more pressure on himself this year,” Carlson said. “And to live up to the expectations that not only he put on himself but the people in the national golf scene [did] too is pretty impressive.”
 
With two more years left, Mendez has the chance to finish with the best season stroke average, which is now 70.89, and cement himself in Minnesota golf history.
 
“He can accomplish anything that he wants to as long as he continues his work ethic,” Carlson said. “One of his goals is to become the all-time leader at Gopher golf, and that’s attainable for him over the next couple of years.”