This Saturday, the Gophers and pitching coach Todd Oakes will have one final push for the Strikeout Cancer campaign. Along with having a chance to donate online, supporters also have the chance to purchase Team T.O. Strikeout Cancer t-shirts at Saturday's game vs. Purdue. The t-shirts will be $20 and with the purchase, you also receive a autographed trading cards of Glen Perkins and Todd Oakes when he was a pitching coach in Major League Baseball. Trading cards and t-shirts while supplies last
Can't make it to the game? You still have a chance to donate to T.O.'s cause on his fundraising page.
Big Ten Champs...
Why not us? This was not a theme I used with my guys prior to embarking on the first round of the Big Ten Championships at the Dye Course at French Lick Resort, but I was certainly thinking it. The rankings were certainly not accurately measuring the 53 wins and 4 losses we had amassed in our six spring collegiate tournaments. I know how dangerous confidence can be in the game of golf. So before the start of the first round in Indiana, we talked about what we learned from winning three times in the 2013-14 season and playing the tournament for the teammate sitting next to you. All coaches have these types of speeches planned for certain times of the year, but our positive tone at all times with our players allows them to play freely and it is what Coach Stith and I witnessed in Round 1.
Let the drama begin...The Dye Course measures 8,108 yards from the back tees at a par of 72. No, we did not play this monster from those tees, but we did play each day of the tournament from 7,300 yards, which is tough enough on a course that boasts the second highest USGA rating of 81.0. For example, Hazeltine National GC, which is well known to be the toughest golf course in Minnesota from the back tees, has a course rating of just over 77.0. We maneuvered the deep fairway bunkers and 26-yard wide fairways with ease on Day 1 through 16 holes, finding ourselves eight shots clear of second-place Purdue University.
Not fazed by his first Big Ten Championships start, Jose Mendez closed his day with a solid par at the last for a 3-under total of 69. This would stand as the lowest single round shot at the 2014 Championships. I did say we played well through 16 holes above, as we unfortunately couldn't withstand the increasing wind and brutal par-4 17th, as we gave eight shots back to the field in those last two holes to find our team in the lead by two after Round 1. Jon DuToit and Jon Trasamar, both Minnesota high school products, each shot very good opening rounds to offset tough first rounds by senior Alex Gaugert and junior Tyler Lowenstein.
We all love 36-hole days...16 miles of walking in two rounds and winds that peaked at 22 MPH were two of the factors that contributed to higher second round scores for the field, along with a few more gray hairs for Ole Head Coach. Don't tell my wife about gray hairs as she still thinks I am the same strapping young man she married almost 10 years ago! Aside from the weather and tricky pin positions, we shot 300 in the second round with scores of 74 (Mendez), 75(DuToit), 75(Gaugert) and 76(Trasamar).
I thought mornings were supposed to be calm...25-35 MPH sustained winds greeted all players on "Moving Day" from the first tee until the final putt on hole 18. Our team is mentally strong, proven champions and always ready for the challenge of increased pressure that comes with being in contention at a major! Our third round was magic. Now usually when I use a strong word like that it means we shot career low rounds individually or as a team, but this is not the case. +13 was the number of the day for Gopher Golf. Some may say, "How can you feel good about that score?" Well, that was the best score of the day by two shots and moved our team clear of second place heading into the final round by seven shots over No. 9 ranked Illinois and No. 37 ranked Purdue.
Even better than the movement in the team race was the comment by one volunteer at the event to me just after play finished. A gentleman from Paoli, Indiana, who paid $100 to volunteer for the event, and worked in cold, windy conditions sought me out to tell me the University of Minnesota was "by a landslide" the most appreciative team at the tournament toward the 100-plus volunteers. I was overwhelmed with joy knowing our young players are growing into superb young men that represent the University of Minnesota and all the golfers in Minnesota in the best way possible.
Heading into the final round of the Big Ten Championships, I needed a little advice on how to deal with my own nerves as a coach. I am so fortunate to be surrounded at Gopher Athletics by some of the finest coaches in the world. I called Brad Frost, the finest women's hockey coach in the nation and one of my closest friends, the night before the round. He has a clear mission and vision with his team that I have been able to understand for the better part of four years now. "Controlling what you can control," "doing the little things well" and a few other coaching points were discussed on Saturday. Thank you, Brad, for that support!
Big Ten Championships...final round...Jose Mendez vs. Charlie Danielson...Minnesota vs. Illinois...This has become a rivalry that started at the Big Ten Match Play and will continue for many years as I have the utmost respect for Coach Small and the Illini! Illinois would start out on fire with five team birdies in the first three holes, while we matched that with only three birdies of our own. The back-and-forth body blows continued for the next nine holes only to see our seven-shot lead evaporate into an all-square match starting the 16th hole. Jose Mendez had also given up his lead to a hot putter in Charlie Danielson. Charlie is from Osceola, Wisconsin, and is one of the strongest sophomores in the nation. Hole 16 is a mere 191 yards with a green bordered by water on the right and a huge pot bunker on the left. The wind was freshening with the Iowa Hawkeyes in the clubhouse with the round of the day, 4-under par 284.
Solid shots by both teams sent the match to the 17th,
where the Illini found trouble with a bogey and a double bogey. In contrast,
Gopher Golf drew on experience with the lead throughout the year by carding a
bogey and a birdie, along with three pars by Jon DuToit, Tyler Lowenstein and
Jose Mendez. That lone birdie at the 17th was that of senior captain Jon
Trasamar. He buried a 10-footer after one of his finest iron shots of the week
from 175 yards (8 iron). This set the stage for one of the finest moments of
the year in Gopher Golf...
Trasamar drained a 45-yard putt.
After laying up on the 615-yard, par-5 18th hole, Trasamar would catch his wedge shot slightly heavy, leaving it 45 feet below the hole. With the hole location in the back right of this 59-yard long green, Coach Stith and Trasamar used "Aim Point" to read the putt. If you have not tried Aim Point, it is one of the new techniques we have taught our guys this year to revolutionize their green reading. Trasamar holed the putt with a fist pump and with the crowd on the hill going crazy, the Big Ten Championship was coming home to Minnesota! Because I had previously mentioned college golf is mostly a team environment, this did overshadow the individual duel between the "Costa Rican Athlete of the Year" and one of the three amazing Danielson siblings from Osceola.
The last player to win an individual Big Ten Championship is my good friend Matt Anderson. Matt now works at Dick's Sporting Goods in Bloomington, along with serving as assistant golf coach at Edina HS. He also still sports one of the best wedge games in Minnesota!
Jose and Charlie shared medalist honors.
Jose and Charlie were playing hole 18. After both laying up to 69 and 92 yards respectively, an uncharacteristic poor shot from Charlie resulted in the greenside bunker. Jose hit a smart shot to 25 feet below the hole. Charlie could only muster a bogey 6 after his approach shot, which set the stage for Jose to win it outright. After hitting a solid putt missing on the right, he would bury it from 4 feet to earn a share of the Big Ten Individual title. Because of tight travel windows, no playoff is held for the individual titles in our conference.
We did it! The Big Ten title is for everyone in the State of Minnesota, families of our players, alumni of our great program and donors. It's a great memory for all players/coaches on the victorious 2014 team. You can watch the tape delayed drama of our win at the Big Ten Championships on Big Ten Network at 6 p.m. on May 17.
We are now off to one of the six NCAA Regional sites at Lonnie Poole GC in Raleigh, North Carolina, next week. Follow the live scoring on Golfstat.com Thursday, May 15-Saturday, May 17. Five teams advance to the NCAA Finals at Prarie Dunes Country Club in Hutchison, Kansas, which starts Thursday, May 22. Four team wins in our 2013-14 season, three individual titles by Jose Mendez and recently receiving the Norman Borlaug Academic Award at the Golden Goldys for the team with the best academic performance in Gopher Athletics in the previous year, are all proud moments in my third year as head coach. This ride in our championship portion of our season has only begun though.
Fairways, Fairways, Fairways!
Nick Bjugstad with Cole Johnson
DONATE TO THE LLS CAMPAIGN UNTIL MAY 16
A campaign that ran from April 1-30, every strikeout by a Gopher pitcher and by alum (and current Minnesota Twins pitcher) Glen Perkins helped fight cancer as part of pitching coach Todd Oakes' Strike Out Cancer campaign through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). Perkins pledged $100 for each of his strikeouts during the month, and the Gophers collected pledges for each of theirs as well.
Although accomplishing 16 strikeouts as the Twins closer, Perkins will donate $2,500 towards the cause, while he's asked the Minnesota Twins and the Major League Baseball Players Association to match his donation. Fox Sports North reporter Tyler Mason caught up with Oakes and Perkins in this recent article and the connection between the two Read the story here
Supporters of the Oakes campaign can continue to donate online (link listed above) until May 16. Team T.O. t-shirts will be made available in the upcoming weeks.
A native of Spring Grove, Minn., Oakes recently caught up with Kyle Deckelbaum from WKBT News 8, La Crosse. Check out this two-part video feature on Todd's journey.
Part One: Oakes as he battled cancer
Part Two: The LLS Campaign/Perkins and team involvement
Not only has the University of Minnesota been involved in this process, Ohio State will donate monetary ticket donations towards the cause in their series against Iowa this upcoming weekend. Augsburg College, where Oakes' son, Tanner, plays, is also hosting a Strikeout Cancer day on Sunday.
Two members of this year's Gopher Hockey signing class won gold on Sunday as members of the U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team.
Jack Glover and Ryan Collins helped the U.S. to a 5-2 win over the Czech Republic as the Red, White and Blue captured its eighth gold medal at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's Under-18 World Championships in Lappeenranta, Finland.
The U.S. went 6-1 at the tournament and rallied six-straight wins to clinch gold at the tournament. After falling to Switzerland (2-4) in the opening game, the U.S. topped the Czech Republic (3-0), Denmark (7-0) and Finland (4-3) in the preliminary round. The team then beat Slovakia (6-2) in the quarterfinals, Sweden (4-1) in the semifinals and finished off the tournament against the Czech Republic (5-2) in the gold-medal game. The U.S. also topped Germany (9-1) in a pre-tournament game.
Both defensemen for the U.S., Glover and Collins played in all seven tournament games. Glover tallied four points at the event with a goal and two assists while Collins notched a pair of assists for the U.S. including one in the gold-medal game.
Glover and Collins have been long-time teammates with the U.S. National Development Team Program (USNDTP) in Ann Arbor, Mich., as well as helping Benilde-St. Margaret's to the Minnesota State Class AA title in 2012.
A Golden Valley, Minn., native, Glover has 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 24 USHL games this season for the U.S. Under-18 Team while Collins, who hails from Bloomington, Minn., has skated in 26 games for the team this season with two assists.
Both Glover and Collins participated in the 2013 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game last September in Pittsburgh and are eligible for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
The 2004 Big Ten champion Golden Gopher baseball team was honored on the field during the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. The team members in attendance received commemorative plaques during the presentation.
The 2004 Gophers won both the regular season and tournament Big Ten titles. They won 13 of their last 17 games on the way to their third straight regular season conference championship. Minnesota finished 21-10 in conference play, ahead of second-place Ohio State.
The Gophers went on to beat Ohio State in the tournament championship held at Siebert Field. The Buckeyes beat the Gophers in their first try at the tournament title, forcing one more game between the two teams. Minnesota won it 7-3 and Glen Perkins was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
The Gophers had nine All-Big Ten selections, including Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Perkins, Andy Hunter and Sam Steidl on the first team. Mike Mee, Jake Elder and Craig Molldrem made the second team, while Luke MacLean, Matt Fornasiere and David Hrncirik earned third-team status. John Anderson was named Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Minnesota made the NCAA Tournament and finished the season 38-23 overall.
Aaron Kemp, the senior associate athletic director at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., has been named the new commissioner of the women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association. He accepted a four-year agreement with the WCHA. Kemp, 38, succeeds Sara Martin, who has served as the guiding force of the women's WCHA since its founding in 1999. Martin will retire on June 30.
"I'm honored and excited for the opportunity to join the WCHA in this role," Kemp said. "The WCHA has identified itself as the premiere women's hockey conference, producing some of the most elite players in the game today. I'm thrilled to begin serving the member institutions and student-athletes. I'm committed to the same tradition of excellence and look forward to enhancing the overall operation and image of the league moving forward."
The WCHA executive committee put together a search committee to conduct a national search for the new commissioner. Kemp will get acquainted with the WCHA's coaches and administrators at the league's annual meetings in Marco Island, Fla. April 28-29 and plans to have his office in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
"On behalf of the entire Western Collegiate Hockey Association family, we are excited to announce Aaron Kemp as the next women's commissioner," said Bill Hudson, Professor at St. Cloud State University and Chair of the Association. "Aaron brings an extensive, proven background in both the sport of collegiate ice hockey and in athletic administration to the conference and we all look forward to working with him to both continue and expand on the WCHA's great tradition.
"Aaron is most passionate about hockey and has long been a strong proponent of student-athletes. As an administrator, he has overseen both women's and men's Division 1 ice hockey programs, he has a wealth of experience coaching both women's and men's collegiate teams, he has been involved in planning and organizing Frozen Fours and he has been a member of the NCAA hockey rules committee."
Kemp joined the athletic administration staff at Mercyhurst in June of 2008. He was promoted to Senior Associate Athletic Director/Mercyhurst North East Director of Athletics in June of 2011 after serving as the Associate Athletic Director/Director of Compliance on the Erie campus.
Kemp's primary responsibility was to provide the leadership, vision, and strategic direction for the Mercyhurst North East athletics program. He also had responsibilities to oversee the operation of the men's and women's hockey programs at Mercyhurst.
Prior to joining the administration, Kemp was an assistant men's hockey coach at his alma mater, Canisius College, from 2002-2004 and was a member of the women's hockey coaching staff at Mercyhurst from 2004-2008. Under head coach Michael Sisti, Mercyhurst compiled a 109-25-14 record during Kemp's time, boasting four College Hockey America Championships and four appearances in the NCAA Division I playoffs.
Kemp was part of the American Hockey Coaches Association NCAA Division 1 Staff of the Year for the 2004-2005 season and the CHA Staff of the Year the same season.
He has served on the executive committees for Atlantic Hockey and CHA conferences, was on the local organizing committee for the 2003 Men's Frozen Four, was the tournament director for the 2011 Women's Frozen Four and currently serves on the NCAA hockey rules committee.
Kemp earned a bachelor's degree in physical education in 1999 and a master's degree in Sports Administration in 2004, both at Canisius College. He is married to Darcey, the Dean of Students at Mercyhurst North East, and the couple has a son Jackson and two daughters, Ashlyn and Cierra.
Gophers head coach Brad Frost was a member of the search committee which selected Kemp.
"Aaron brings great experience in both the hockey and administrative world," said Frost, who has won two national titles at Minnesota and made three straight appearances in the NCAA title game. "He will do a tremendous job in taking our league to the next level."
Hudson, who chaired the search committee for a new commissioner, had high praise for Martin, the only leader the women's WCHA has ever had.
"I also want to take this opportunity to again thank retiring commissioner Sara Martin for all she had done to promote both the WCHA and women's collegiate ice hockey over the past 15 years," said Hudson. "Her commitment and dedication have been exemplary and we will always be grateful to her."
WCHA-member teams have appeared in a record 15 straight national championship games and captured 14 consecutive national championships between 2000-2013 (2000 AWCHA Div. 1 champions, 2001-2013 NCAA Women's Frozen Four champions). Six WCHA players have earned the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top player in Division 1 women's collegiate ice hockey. Hundreds of WCHA players have had extensive experience and success in international competitions such as the Winter Olympics, IIHF World Championships and Four Nations' Cup.
WCHA: Aaron Kemp Named New Commissioner of Women's WCHA