I have been fortunate to take many golf trips, whether with friends or during competition, in my 25 years of playing golf...starting at the age of 9 for everyone counting. But I hold one golf trip above them all! A friend of mine, Joe Winkels from Wayzata Country Club, and I toured some of the most historic clubs in America while there. Riviera CC, Bel Air CC (current head golf professional is Dave Podas who was the head golf professional at Minneapolis GC until 2007), Valencia CC and Trump National GC made up our trip and certainly surpassed our expectations.
I only mention this trip as our golf team is embarked on another fine trip, including a round of golf at the other historic golf club in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Country Club-North Course. Rated as the No. 41 golf course in America by Golf Digest, this George Thomas par 70 design was certainly on my bucket list of golf courses yet to play in the US Top 100. Many say it is as private as Cypress Point GC and Pine Valley, only finishing a close second in exclusivity to the home of the Masters, Augusta National.
Los Angeles Country Club certainly grabs your attention immediately as the flowers surrounding the clubhouse are something out of a fairy tale, 350 trees have been removed from the recent remodel by 2016 Olympics Course designer, Gil Hanse, and there is a stunning view of the Beverly Hills Hilton from the first tee.
Coach Stith and I both played that day in a grouping with Kurt Schuette, who is the director of golf at USC and a close friend of mine. He was our historian for the round as we had an amazing day with Matt Rachey, freshman golfer, also in our pairing. Birdies are tough to come by at LACC as it plays to a par 70 at nearly 7,400 yards from the tips. The 2017 Walker Cup will be played on these grounds, which certainly caught the attention of my players knowing the US Amateur that year will also be played in Los Angeles at Rivera CC and Bel Air CC. I know this day will rate very highly in the memories of our players as they look back at their amazing college golf experiences.
California rates very highly in the minds of one of our players, Jon Trasamar. I wouldn't be shocked if he moves immediately after he receives his graduate degree in May. We drove by the Oscars festivities, took in Rodeo and Sunset Drive before setting our sights on the main reason we were in California--the Del Walker Classic at Virginia CC, hosted by Long Beach State University. Virginia CC is famous among PGA Tour conversations as it is host to one of the top 100 golf instructors in the country, Jamie Mulligan. Jamie teaches John Cook, Paul Goydos, John Merrick, John Mallinger and Patrick Cantlay and many others that are making a significant impact in the professional golf world. Virginia CC was founded in 1909 and it plays to a par 70 at a yardage of 6,560 yards.
Eleven teams from six different conferences came to Long Beach looking for a win. The field was comprised of: Minnesota, Wichita State, Grand Canyon, Colorado State, Cal State Fullerton, Cal Santa Barbara, Arizona, Cal State Northridge, Kansas State, Denver and Long Beach State. After torrential rain fall that was apparently the largest storm that had hit the area in three years, the golf course would play very long throughout the week.
Round 1 started off with our team on fire. Making the turn at 8 under, led by Alex Gaugert and Jon Trasamar, our team vaulted to the lead against this very strong field. The inward nine holes play at a par 34 with no par 5s. We struggled to finish off our rounds as a team with the exception of Jon Trasamar, who carded a 4-under-par 66 in his first round. Other scores would see Alex Gaugert with 69, Jose Mendez at 72, Matt Rachey carding 73 and rounding out with a 4-over round of 74 by Jon DuToit. Even par (280) had our team in fourth place following the morning round.
The second round again started off well for each of the players and would end even better with a team score of 4-under-par 276. Jon DuToit chipped in for birdie on his 34th hole of the day to lead our team in the afternoon session with 68. Alex Gaugert played steadily in round 2 to shoot 69. Jose Mendez, the team's scoring average leader as a freshman, posted his lowest score of the year with 69. Jon Trasamar (70) would finish the 36-hole day in a tie for fifth place. We wouldn't be sleeping on the lead but certainly within striking distance at five shots back of first-place Cal State Fullerton. Fullerton is currently ranked 45th in the nation highlighted by a fall season that saw them lose to only four opponents total over the course of four events, while notching three team victories.
I preach that we need to walk the course with confidence, play to our strengths and know our tendencies each time we meet as a team. Virginia CC was a course where players have to stick to their game plan, as laying up is essential in spots. The final round was filled with dramatics that included untimely double bogeys and plenty of eagles and birdies. I was closely following our scoring on Golfstat.com the entire day. This also caused me to have a slight headache after the first 10 holes knowing that we were not scoring up to our full potential.
Standing on the 12th tee of the tournament, senior captain Jon Trasamar was 1 under for the week and needed a strong finish to secure his second top-five finish of the 2013-14 season. He would draw from his experience winning the 2013 Pine to Palm Championship at Detroit CC with an eagle on No. 12, followed by a birdie on No. 14 to help set the stage for another big comeback for our team. Jose Mendez birdied four of his final seven holes, capped off by a wedge shot to 9 feet and burying his putt like the true champion he already is at the tender age of 18.
Look for a feature on Jose Mendez in the next issue of Ski-U-Mah Magazine.
One of our most consistent players in his first two years at college has been Jon DuToit. Jon is a MN High School Class AAA Champion, MN State Open Champion and a caddy in the summer at Hazeltine National Golf Club. He has worked with Mike Barge for many years honing his golf swing and that work paid off in the final round as he made three birdies in his closing stretch of five holes for a final round 72. Alex Gaugert, senior from Lake Geneva, Wis., played very solid golf all week finishing with 69-69-69 to secure a tie for fifth place in the event. Although Matt Rachey had his score count in only one round, his scores of 73-73-74 certainly proved he belongs on the biggest stage in college golf.
The dramatics finally ended at 3 p.m. with our team securing a one-shot victory over the University of Arizona. This victory is significant for all Northern teams as it is one of the only team wins by any major conference, Northern school in the first half of the spring semester. I am proud of our team for their resiliency, patience and determination in practice and certainly in our eight events this year.
Two victories in eight events marks the first time since the 2006-07 season that Gopher Golf has won twice in a season. We will look for our third victory March 24-25 when we travel to the Duck Classic at Emerald Valley GC in Eugene, Ore. Only three tournaments remaining until the Big Ten Championship in the first week of May, so now is the time for Gopher golf to firmly supplant ourselves on the National stage in college golf. Come along for the ride!
Fairways, Fairways, Fairways!
Congratulations to Grady Meyer, who was named the McNamara Academic Center's Student-Athlete of the Month! Here is what the golf team's academic counselor, Chelsie Schafer, had to say about Grady:
"Grady Meyer is an excellent choice for Student-Athlete of the Month. Grady earned a 4.0 his first semester as a Gopher and appears to be on track to work at that level again this spring based on feedback from his instructors. I couldn't be more excited for his academic success. He is an excellent example of an all-around student-athlete and a pleasure to work with. I am confident he will submit an outstanding application to transfer into the Carlson School of Management."