Gopher Golf Fans!
The offseason for college golf is upon us. Strength and
conditioning sessions are at a higher intensity. individual meetings, fall
season statistical analysis, yoga sessions and recruiting are in full swing
around the country's best college golf programs. A reflection on our fall finds
me smiling and sitting back in my office chair relaxing in knowing that my
players are having the time of their lives competing for the Maroon and Gold!
Without getting too far ahead, I still have our final
tournament of the fall to analyze. The Kiawah Classic hosted by Charleston
Southern brought 18 teams from all across the country to compete on the par-72,
7,015-yard Jack Nicklaus-designed Turtle Point Golf Club. To say this golf
course was tight would be an understatement. Out of bounds stakes and water
hazards greeted each player from hole 1 to 18. The constant winds off the
ocean, tough pin placements and thin Bermuda lies greenside presented the
biggest challenge of the year for our team.
Day 1 is a day that I have already erased from my memory as balls
careened out-of-bounds, 3-putts abounded and Gopher Golf endured the toughest
scoring day of our outstanding fall season. 312 was the score as Jon Trasamar
led our team with a 3-over-par round of 75. Junior Tyler Lowenstein (76), freshman
Jose Mendez (79), freshman Matt Rachey (79) and senior Alex Gaugert(80) round
out the scoring.
Read a Q&A with Matt Rachey at the end of this blog entry.
We have all watched the movies "Miracle," "Invincible"
and "Rudy" which offer inspiration in times of desperation. For the 45 minutes
following Round 1, I gave my best impression of the great coaches in these movies.
It was hard to see our well prepared team collectively struggle but it also
gave our coaching staff the opportunity for teaching/coaching moments, and each
of the players responded well. Round 2
would prove to be dramatically different as we putted the ball considerably
better and controlled our trajectories better from tee to green. We moved from
15th to 12th on Day 2 and put ourselves in position to secure our sixth top-10 finish
of the year heading into Day 3.
Day 3 once again greeted us with cold weather, ranging
from 30 to 40 degrees at 8 a.m., with winds off the water. Our scoring leader, Jose Mendez, played one
of his most solid rounds of the year in posting a 2-under-par score of 70. That
proved to be one of the lowest scores in the entire field that day and also
helped him secure another top-20, with a tie for 16th in his sixth collegiate
tournament. The others battled on Day 3 with scores of 74 by Lowenstein (T-16),
77's by Gaugert (T-54) and Rachey (T-69), and rounding out with an 82 by
Trasamar (T-82). Despite higher than
normal scoring, we managed to move up to finish in a tie for 10th place.
I never want my guys to stop learning by asking questions
about the golf swing, mental processes or golf course conditions, and I can say
that we have assembled a very hard working group of young men. We talk about
launch conditions with drivers, grooves in wedges, face rotation with putting,
gap spacing in irons...just to mention a few of the great conversations these
young men bring up while driving back from Braemar Dome or our Tom Lehman
Practice Facility. Our preparation in the offseason is a well-oiled machine
producing solid results the past few seasons in the spring and I don't expect
anything less from our intelligent group of budding stars in Gopher Golf right
Our rankings heading into a spring season that will see
us competing in six to eight tournaments, depending on NCAA bids, have us
positioned at No. 68 in Golfweek and No. 79 in Golfstat out of the 308 Division
I golf teams in the country. We are in great position with a +22 (.500) record
that ranks 43rd among those same teams. Our schedule will remain strong as we
compete in the Big Ten Match Play at Concession GC, Long Beach State at
Virginia CC, Oregon at Emerald Valley GC, Iowa at Finkbine GC, Penn State at
the PSU Blue Course, the Big Ten Championships at French Lick Resort, NCAA
Regionals and NCAA Finals.
The excitement is growing and I want everyone to be a
part of it by following our results on Golfstat.com, Gophersports.com,
"Carlson's Corner" and mngolf.org, and support our program's technological
needs by donating via GoldenGopherFund.com on the right hand side of the page
under Our Sports or calling me anytime at my office at 612-625-5863.
Have a great Holidays from all the players and tremendous
support staff at Gopher Men's Golf and finally from my wife, Caese, myself and
our 15-month-old, Collins!
Player Feature: Matt Rachey (Fr./Waconia, Minn./Waconia HS)
GopherSports: What are your goals for the 2013-14 season?
Matt Rachey: Practice hard each day and consistently improve each part of my game.
GS: What part of your game is your biggest strength?
MR: Ball striking
GS: Which course in the Twin Cities area is your favorite and why?
MR: Somerset. We played it for qualifying this year and it had some of the coolest looking holes around.
GS: Favorite club in your bag?
GS: Anything interesting you carry around in your golf bag?
MR: A bag of quarters so I can by my Snickers at the turn.
GS: What is your favorite thing about being a Golden Gopher?
MR: Getting to play some of the nicest courses in the country and being able to hang out with the older guys on the team.
Gopher Golf Fans!
Twenty-nine...some of you may be wondering: What is the significance of this number? Twenty-nine is the score posted by Jon Trasamar on the final nine holes of the Barnabas Health Intercollegiate last weekend! Not only did it include five birdies and an eagle that propelled him to a second-place finish, his finest performance as a collegiate golfer, but it also sealed a 17-shot victory for our team in the 15-team field. First team win since 2006-07 season, first outright team victory going back to the 2005 Gopher Invitational and the first time in my coaching career to have all five team members finish inside the top 10! What a week to back up a fine performance at the Alister MacKenzie hosted by the University of California...
Trasamar's back-nine 29 propelled him to a career-best finish.
Sonoma, Calif., is the home of Sam Snead's favorite golf course west of the Mississippi River (Sonoma Golf Club) and one of the busiest tourism areas in the world this time of the year. Our golfers came to play this weekend. Sonoma GC played firm and fast at 7,100 yards in near perfect weather. Ten top-75 teams were assembled primarily from the Pac-12 and West Coast Conference to battle it out in one of the most historic college tournaments on the NCAA schedule each year. Besides having some of the best Mexican food, playing Mayacama GC (one of the top 100 courses in the world) and listening to stories from tourists about every grape known to the industry, we were there to compete...and we did just that!
Alex Gaugert capped off a fine performance to our team's ninth-place finish with three under-par rounds and a three-round total of 7-under-par 206. This was good enough for a seventh-place finish that has now vaulted him inside the top 600 in the overall Golfstat Individual rankings. Jose Mendez, Jon Trasamar, Tyler Lowenstein and Jon DuToit all had solid rounds that enabled Gopher golf to finish in ninth place with a 3-round total of 7 under par. The 9th-place showing was slightly misleading as we finished 10 strokes out of second and 10 strokes ahead of 11th. A final nine holes of +3 allowed a few teams to move past us but an under-par team showing went a long ways mentally in preparation for our trip the same week to Seton Hall, N.J.
No one on our team had been to New Jersey before. I love when our guys talk about the number of states that they have now been through because of college golf. New Jersey boasts some of the greatest golf courses in the world such as Baltusrol, Trump National and Springfield. These courses have the national publicity but we were lucky enough to play at Fiddler's Elbow Country Club, which has 54 holes of amazing golf. Playing at a yardage of 6,910 yards with five par-3's and five par-5's, I knew fireworks were in store for us and I was lucky enough to witness the barrage of birdies on the final nine holes of the 36-hole event.
Through one round of golf and multiple three-putts, we stood in second place behind a talented team from Temple University. Temple boasts one of the top-ranked golfers in the country, Brandon Matthews, who recently was a quarterfinalist in the 2013 USGA Amateur.
The second day was our day, though. The first six holes were shaky at best, but Alex Gaugert and Matt Rachey both helped our team with a solid start of even par through those holes. The next 12 holes proved to me that we have a team that will contend for a championship in every event going forward.
The fireworks started on hole 11. Trasamar made eagle, while Mendez, Lowenstein and Gaugert followed with birdies. Putts were falling that hadn't earlier this fall, and in the end our back-nine scoring amounted to 10 under par! Jon Trasamar would finish with 11 putts for a back nine of 29, which would propel him to a final round of 66. Our next four scores were as follows: Gaugert (71), Mendez (71), Rachey (72) and Lowenstein (72). The balance in our lineup is evident with our highest score of the entire tournament being 2-over-par 74. Congratulations go out to Jon Trasamar, who was named Big Ten Player of the Week following the Seton Hall performance! Also a special shout out to Matt Rachey, who competed like a veteran in his first collegiate tournament.
Gopher Golf is certainly on the rise and competition is alive and well in practice and qualifying. We leave for Kiawah Island to play the Jack Nicklaus-designed, Turtle Point Golf Club, in 10 days. Qualifying will be over three rounds at Southview Country Club (home of the Tapemark Charity Pro Am every June), Interlachen CC (home of many USGA Championships) and Wayzata CC (home of PGA Tour player Tim Herron). Two spots will be up for grabs among Tyler Lowenstein, Matt Rachey, Jon DuToit, Charlie Braniff, Daniel Luftspring and Genki Hirayama.
Between college classes, the Minnesota vs. Nebraska football game, practice and qualifying, rest assured the balance between student and athlete is alive and well in the friendly confines of the Bierman Building for Gopher Golf.
Fairways, Fairways, Fairways!
Player Feature: Jon Trasamar (R-Sr./Blue Earth, Minn./Blue Earth HS)
GopherSports: What are your goals for the season?
Jon Trasamar: My goals for this season include an individual win and All-American honors. I want to set my goals high this last year.
GS: What is your favorite course in the Twinc Cities?
JT: My favorite Twin Cities course is Hazeltine because it's the biggest, best test we have in the state. IT's the only one where the best in the world play.
GS: What is the biggest strength of your game?
JT: The strength of my game is my short game, including chipping, pitching and bunker play.
GS: Do you have a favorite club in your bag?
JT: My favorite club in my bag is my 58 degree wedge and my 3 iron.
GS: Is there anything interesting you carry around in your bag?
JT: I carry all my different color sharpies in my bag to mark my ball before the round.
GS: What is your favorite part of being a Golden Gopher?
JT: My favorite thing about being a Gopher is to represent my home state, as well as all the previous Gopher golfers to play here. It's an honor to be a Gopher and a part of the Gopher golf program.
2013 Scoring Averages (Rounds Played)
Matt Rachey..................................72.50 (2)
Jose Mendez ................................73.21 (14)
Jon Trasamar................................73.79 (14)
Alex Gaugert ................................74.00 (14)
Tyler Lowenstein ..........................74.14 (14)
Grady Meyer ................................74.25 (4)
Jon DuToit ....................................74.58 (12)
Charlie Braniff ..............................75.75 (4)
Genki Hirayama............................77.33 (3)
Daniel Luftspring ..........................78.50 (4)
Trasamar's back nine scorecard in the final round of the Seton Hall tournament:
Gopher Golf Fans-
As we embark on our next challenge, or -- as I like to
tell my players -- another opportunity, I want to take a moment to reflect upon
our latest tournament performance in New Mexico. We have also been very busy
with qualifying, along with the first round of midterm exams for all
We have now had five practices and three qualifying
rounds since our last competitive round at the University of New Mexico
Championship GC, but it seems like just yesterday since I saw our sophomore,
Jon DuToit, hole his par putt from 12 feet on his last hole at the Tucker. The
Tucker, hosted by the University of New Mexico, is played at 5,000 feet of
elevation on a golf course that measures 7,678 yards from the back tees. The
elevation plays a huge role as it accounts for approximately 10 percent more
carry distance on every golf shot. In summary, here is how we determine the
actual yardage is shot was playing:
Yardage to Pin
yardage in elevation (measured by Bushnell Slope Laser in practice round)
percent is subtracted from Nos. 1 and 2
affected yardage-Frost each morning...in NEW MEXICO(was 85 degrees in MN)
Read a Q&A with Charlie Braniff below.
All in all, we have very intelligent players that made
the calculations perfectly, and now it was a matter of execution. Our execution
was superb through 33 holes as we were tied for second at that point. In a
tournament featuring nine teams ranked inside the top 50 in the NCAA rankings,
I finally realized how far the program had come in the last four years. But the
excitement in reflection would soon come to an abrupt halt as we finished our
final three holes that afternoon 10-over-par. Nevertheless, we had a firm
handle on sixth place, trailing USC and UNLV by three shots heading into the
final round. After the 20-plus mph winds and dust settled on Day 1, we were
once again led by our outstanding freshman, Jose Mendez, with a 36-hole total
of 148. Closely behind him were senior Alex Gaugert (73-77), junior Tyler Lowenstein
(71-81) and Jon DuToit (73-79).
It is never easy to finish a long day with a few bogeys
and despite the upbeat team meeting talking about the "positives" from Day 1,
our struggles carried over into the final round. A frost delay and tucked pins
greeted all the players on Day 2. We got off to a shaky start but found the
heart to battle all day long in tough conditions to secure an eighth-place
finish in this strong field. Jose Mendez continued his solid play by posting a
t-14th finish that led the team for the second straight week. This day would
serve as a great motivator for our practices to follow!
The five days of practice focused entirely on wedge
yardages, putting drills and bunker technique in order to alleviate the
pressure of missed greens when we play the tough college golf courses. Our 10
men have bought into a strong work ethic, detailed preparation and a more
confident mindset, which will prove valuable as we take on our next challenge
at Sonoma Golf Club. Before Sonoma
though, we qualified at Minikahda Club, Edina CC and Minneapolis GC because
each of these golf courses mirror the conditions we will face in Northern
California. Alex Gaugert won the qualifying with an even-par total of 216 by five
strokes over runner-up Jon Trasamar. Tyler Lowenstein and Jon DuToit grabbed
the final two spots over hard charging Charlie Braniff.
I have been very impressed by the play thus far of our redshirt
freshman, Matt Rachey, and one of our other freshmen, Grady Meyer. I wouldn't be surprised to see multiple freshmen
in the lineup throughout the remainder of the fall and into the Big Ten
Championship in May. Competition is alive and well within Gopher Golf, which
will help to maintain or improve our current ranking of 49th. At this time two
years ago, Gopher Golf was ranked No. 122 out of the 296 Division I golf
I will be giving daily interviews from California and all
fans can follow the live scoring from the Alister Mackenzie on Golfstat.com. Before
we compete at Sonoma Golf Club, I like to take my teams to fascinating places
on each trip and this experience will not disappoint. We will be playing
Mayacama Golf Club the day prior to the practice round, which is one of the finest
golf clubs in the country. Stay tuned to GopherSports.com, check out our player
feature in this blog on Charlie Braniff, and continue to support our program
each and every day!
Fairways, Fairways, Fairways--
Feature: Charlie Braniff (R-So./St. Cloud, Minn./St. Cloud Tech HS)
What are your goals for the season?
Charlie Braniff: My goal for the 2013-14
season is to continue to wake up each morning with a desire to get better and
begin to see some results from my hard work.
GS: What is the biggest strength of your game?
CB: My biggest strength in my golf
game is my creativity, I feel I can execute any shot I need in any situation by
GS: What is your favorite course in the Twin Cities?
CB: My favorite course in the twin
cities area is Somerset CC. That course has some of the most amazing views I've
GS: Do you have a favorite club in your bag?
CB: I have 14 of them.
GS: Is there anything interesting that you carry around in golf
CB: I carry around a Titleist No. 7 ball I found when I was younger and it has
a lucky charm stamp on it. I feel like it gives me good luck.
GS: What is your favorite part of being a Golden Gopher?
CB: My favorite part about being a Golden
Gopher is being from Minnesota and being able to wear the Maroon and Gold and
represent the university.
Writing this on the flight from Minneapolis to Albuquerque, N.M., makes me stop for a second and reflect on how truly fortunate I am to have a job that allows me to travel around the world while helping to shape the lives of our outstanding group of young men in a few of the most impressionable years of their lives. Following EVERY tournament, I receive e-mails regarding our team and how we are always the most respectful and thankful team to the volunteers at the events. I do not take this for granted. I am proud of each and every one of our Gopher golfers knowing they are growing up to be fine young men. These fine young men have started the year off exactly where we left off at the end of the spring with our second-place finish at the Big Ten Championship.
The Gopher Invitational--what an event! From the outpouring of volunteers to one of the finest collegiate fields of the year, we hosted another extremely successful event at a new venue, Windsong Farm GC, this year. The golf course played firm and fast from 7,200 yards and showed that "Old Man Par" was still a very good score. The University of New Mexico, the No. 9-ranked team in the country, came away with the win. Our Gopher team started strong and finished the tournament in a tie for fifth place in a field of 12 teams after 54 holes. Leading the way was Tyler Lowenstein, a junior from Wayzata, Minn., with a tie for 10th place finish after rounds of 72-72-70 for a 1-over total. His solid play came only weeks after taking the top amateur prize at the North Dakota State Open at Fargo CC. Other players who had solid weeks for our team were: Jon DuToit, Jon Trasamar, Grady Meyer, Charlie Braniff and Jose Mendez. We are lucky to have great sponsors of our event and hope to see even larger crowds at Windsong Farm next year when the tournament will be played September 7-8, 2014.
Jose Mendez is off to an impressive start.
Finally we actually got to have our first practice. Golf practice in college can consist of anything from on-course instruction/game planning, wedge distance work, bunker game instruction, putting drills, full swing video analysis, launch monitor work to team meetings and individual analysis of the event just played. This is exactly why the NCAA only lets us practice for four hours per day because as most golfers know, we could be out there all day and still not address certain facets of the game. Our practices have been intensified this year with the addition of our freshman class. This class is talented and shares a detailed approach to the game. Daniel Luftspring (Toronto, Ontario), Grady Meyer (Fargo Shanley, N.D.), Matt Rachey (Waconia, Minn.) and Jose Mendez (San Jose, Costa Rica) have brought a light-hearted sense of humor, yet an intense focus on getting better each day to practice. Our upperclassmen have been making certain they do all the drills correctly and will serve as great role models to each of these four players.
Practice doesn't always make perfect, but it is the process we focus on at Gopher Golf to improve our scores from tournament to tournament. This showed in our play at our second tournament in the first three weeks of school at Wolf Run Golf Club in Zionsville, Ind. The University of Indiana served as the host of the event and invited a solid field of 14 teams to take on one of the top 25 modern golf courses in the United States ranked by Golf Digest. Fescue, deep bunkers, tight fairways and wind greeted all the teams upon arrival in Indiana. Who said college golf was easy? The weekend was owned by the Fighting Illini. Their 8-under par score was a tournament record and topped second-place Auburn University by 33 shots! We finished fourth just ahead of tournament host Indiana University. This was the coming out party for our highly touted freshman, Jose Mendez! As one coach said, "He is as good as advertised!" Finishing ninth individually in the event wasn't the most impressive thing though. Jose didn't have his best stuff around the greens and has only spent about three weeks playing off bent grass, which has caused a few errant distances on approach shots. He will be one of the top freshmen in the Big Ten this year and will contend for an individual title each time out. Alex Gaugert, Jon DuToit, Tyler Lowenstein and Jon Trasamar all had flashes of good play in Indiana but are even hungrier for their next start in Albuquerque.
Delta takes us almost everywhere and being able to fly nonstop on every trip throughout the year is certainly something all recruits' parents should consider when making a college decision. Getting to class on time the next day with a good night's rest and not having the fatigue from spending extra time in airports is a huge sell about playing for the Gophers! I will be reporting back in my next blog about the Tucker Invitational at the University of New Mexico Championship Course. I have two very interesting facts to leave you with regarding Albuquerque....First, James McLean won the Minnesota Gophers' last individual NCAA Championship at this course. Second, El Pinto may be the best Mexican restaurant in the world. Any restaurant that has fresh green and red chilies hanging from the ceiling goes right to the top of my list!
Follow us on Golfstat.com for live scoring, Twitter and Facebook for instant updates on the team or on Gophersports.com where Justine Buerkle does a great job of keeping Gopher Golf nation informed.
Fairways, Fairways, Fairways,
Gopher Golf Fans-
Preparation is in full force for the start of our 2013-14 fall season starting Sept. 4. As a reminder, college golf consists of 144 days of competition and practice with a break from Nov. 9 to Jan. 19. Other than the weeks around finals, all players condition for up to six hours per week and work with the coaching staff technically for up to two hours per week, even during this break. As many of you know, this means there really is not a break for college golfers as we are constantly looking to improve 365 days a year. August is a quiet month for recruiting but once September hits, we prepare for the rigors of college golf.
Our fall season will consist of six events this year. We will travel to the four corners of the United States looking for the best competition at every stop. Seventeen competitive rounds and 40-plus practices, along with a full academic workload, will allow the players just enough time to eat in Dinkytown occasionally and meet a few new college friends.
In my third full season as head coach, I have even higher anticipation for the start of this year as we have an experienced, solid nucleus returning from a team that nearly pulled off a Big Ten Championship in 2013, only to lose a close battle to the five-time defending Big Ten Champions, the Illini of the University of Illinois. Oh, I forgot to mention that Illinois also finished runner up at the 2013 NCAA Championship in Atlanta...
Our returning starters include Jon Trasamar (fifth-year senior and team captain), Alex Gaugert (senior), Tyler Lowenstein (junior) and Jon DuToit (sophomore). Also seeing tournament action in 2012-13 was third-year sophomore Charlie Braniff. The two remaining returners to our team are Genki Hirayama (senior) and Kyle Beversdorf (junior).
My second full recruiting class at the U is something that our coaching staff is very proud of as it ranks highly in the Big Ten. We have four incoming freshmen coming in from all over the world. Jose Mendez (Costa Rica), Grady Meyer (Fargo, N.D.), Daniel Luftspring (Toronto, Ontario) and Matt Rachey (Waconia, Minn.) will all have the opportunity to break into the lineup throughout the year. I could talk at length about each of our returning players and incoming freshmen but our website, GopherSports.com, does a much more thorough job of explaining their credentials and background in golf.
2002 NCAA championship trophy
I do want to touch on our team's biggest accomplishments in amateur events throughout the summer months. Winning is something that comes at the end of a process, as we often talk about as a team. We try to get our players in position to win as much as possible as it is the only true way to expose both strengths and weaknesses in golf. Having said this, our team has shown that our method will achieve results.
2013 Summer Results
*Jon DuToit - MN STATE OPEN CHAMPION, USGA Amateur Public Links Qualifier
*Genki Hirayama - MN PLAYERS CHAMPION (STATE MATCH PLAY)
*Jose Mendez - CALLAWAY JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPION, AJGA CHAMPION, JUNIOR WORLD CUP TEAM QUALIFYING CHAMPION, member of Costa Rican National Team
*Alex Gaugert - fourth place at Wisconsin State Amateur
*Grady Meyer - second place at North Dakota Class A High School State Tournament
*Jon Trasamar - USGA Public Links Match Play Qualifier, PINE TO PALM MEDALIST AND CHAMPION
It is very clear that I am proud of my current and former team members at the University of Minnesota. I display the National Championship trophy in my office along with our three team awards that are rightly named: Louis Lick Hardest Worker, 2002 National Championship Team Teammate of the Year and Tom Lehman Player of the Year. We have many successful professionals doing well on their respective tours this year so continue to check our Twitter
pages for updated headlines.
Lastly, I want to remind everyone of some great ways to get involved in our program.
- Volunteer at the Gopher Invitational at Windsong Farm GC on Sept. 8-9. We are looking for walking scorers and help with live hole scoring and ball spotting.
- Participate in the inaugural Gopher Men's Golf/Gopher Women's Hockey outing at Southview CC on Sept. 16. We plan to make this an annual event.
- Donate to our team's service fund that will be used for large program expenses that will enhance the technology available to our team members.
With each of these opportunities, feel free to contact my assistant coach, Tyler Stith, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to GoldenGopherFund.com.
Fairways, Fairways, Fairways!