It's almost that time again when we will have 750 Gopher student athletes strolling the halls of the Bierman Building, freshmen wandering nervously around campus trying to find their next class and Gopher Golf will be back for another season as defending Big Ten Champions. This title carries an added pressure to build off of a tremendous 2013-14 season, but also it allows our players to feel an even bigger sense of pride when they strap the Maroon and Gold golf bag on their backs each round.
A new season brings new faces and in this blog I want to introduce the 10 players that will be teeing it up at Windsong Farm Golf Club on Sept. 7-8 in the Gopher Invitational. With the new season, we say farewell to three great seniors: Jon Trasamar, Alex Gaugert and Genki Hirayama. In contrast to the previous season, our 2014-15 squad is young with one senior and one junior returning. Here is the breakdown of this year's roster:
· Tyler Lowenstein- Ty is a senior from Wayzata High School in Minnesota that has been a steady contributor to the recent success of Gopher Golf. Ty is extremely creative (instrumental in design of the School of Engineering's Holiday Light Show), likes to work his golf ball from right to left on the course and will be relied upon for leadership this year.
Tyler Lowenstein is the only senior on the 2014-15 roster.
· Jon DuToit- Dutes is a junior from Chaska High School in Minnesota and comes in having played all but two events in the previous season as a starter. Jon loves to tinker with the technology in equipment (2nd Swing's prodigy), has gained 30 yards on his tee ball in two years and recently competed in the US Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club.
· Jose Mendez- Jose hails from San Jose, Costa Rica, and will be starting his sophomore season for the Gophers. A loyal Titleist player, Jose loves futbol and is the defending Big Ten Individual champion.
· Grady Meyer-In his sophomore season after graduating from Fargo Shanley High School in North Dakota, Grady keeps things light in practice. He may be seen dancing, talking, eating large amounts of candy but always working to improve the mechanics of his swing. He will tell you that he can guard anyone on the basketball court and may make himself eligible in three years for the NFL draft as a lockdown cornerback.
· Matt Rachey- Matt is also in his second year coming out of Waconia High School in Minnesota. Rach is like having another coach in the huddle. His determination and class is contagious as he was named Louis Lick "Hardest Worker" in 2013-14. Posture adjustments and a switch in irons have him poised to vie for the top spot in the lineup this year.
· Daniel Luftspring-Oh Canada! Dan is a sophomore coming from the Core Academy in Orlando, Fla. Not far from the accolades of a Rhodes Scholar, Dan loves to hypothesize and ask questions about anything. These qualities of a master debater also have allowed him to make big strides since he first step foot on campus. Only a couple of strokes kept him out of the lineup through qualifying last year and should prove as motivation for the upcoming season.
· William Leaf-Will transferred back to his home state from SIU-Edwardsville this season after graduating from Winona High School. Competitive, skilled, motivated and hungry are all adjectives that sum up Mr. Leaf. There won't be much of a transition period for Will as he has already had success at the Division I level. I will never shy away from expectations as I strongly believe all elite athletes expect to win and Will can be great.
To be a freshman in college again...
· Riley Johnson-Another North Dakota Boy...A Packer from West Fargo HS, Riley compiled one of the greatest high school records since Andy Doeden, David Schultz and Tom Hoge. As a two-time North Dakota State Individual champion, he has more passion for the game than most. Riley will be the second sibling in the Johnson family to be a Gopher as his brother Payton currently is enrolled at the U.
· Runar Arnorsson-As a top player in Iceland for the last six years, Runar makes his trip across the pond to America as a 22-year-old freshman. His mature game, having been tested in many international competitions, should make him a starter immediately in the Big Ten.
· Charlie Duensing-By way of Sandy, Utah, Charlie has spent many summers in Minnesota, as his grandparents live in Detroit Lakes. As one of Ping's top junior players, the transition to college golf and academics will be seamless for Charlie. Competitive and passionate are two words that best sum up Charlie Duensing.
While the players have been busy working hard on their games this summer, our coaching staff has been carrying the heavy load of tournament preparation for the 2014 Gopher Invitational. Months of planning, scheduling the teams' arrival and course setup has been made slightly easier this year thanks to the help of newly appointed Co-Tournament Director, Keith Rachey. Keith is the father of Matt Rachey and has completely transformed our donor support for the event. His detail and creativity will be seen for many years to come as we continue to improve the college golf tournament environment with exciting changes being implemented.
Come watch or volunteer at the Gopher Invitational at Windsong Farm GC Sept. 7-8. We will play 36 holes on Sunday starting at 8:05 am continuing all day. Tee times on Monday are set between 7:30-9:30 am, depending on Day 1 scoring. It is free to spectators and if you choose to volunteer, our Gopher Invitational tournament committee will provide each volunteer with a free golf shirt and golf hat, in addition to lifelong memories of seeing future PGA Tour stars compete in college. Email Jo Rider, Administrative Specialist to Gopher Golf, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to volunteer.
In closing, I always end my blogs with "Fairways, Fairways, Fairways" and the story behind this goes deep into my values in recruiting, competing and player development. College golf has changed in the last 20 years. Golf courses on campus are not being used for tournament competition nearly as often and they have been replaced in the rotation by modern and historic venues demanding accuracy off the tee. I only recruit players with total confidence with the driver and demand that our current players find the short grass more regularly. In tracking our fairways hit, along with GIR from the fairway vs. the rough, using Birdie Fire Statistical Software, it is staggering how much we have improved in this category as a team. Thus, I will continue to preach this with Gopher Golf and clearly we are on our way to more Big Ten Championships.
Fairways, Fairways, Fairways!