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,