Carlson's Corner: Moving Up

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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 student-athletes.

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:

1.            Lasered Yardage to Pin
2.            Uphill/downhill yardage in elevation (measured by Bushnell Slope Laser in practice round)
3.            10 percent is subtracted from Nos. 1 and 2
4.            Wind Variance
5.            Temperature affected yardage-Frost each morning...in NEW MEXICO(was 85 degrees in MN) 

Go Gophers! Charlie Braniff
Go Gophers!
Read a Q&A with Charlie Braniff below.
Go Gophers!

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 programs. 

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--

John Carlson 

Player Feature: Charlie Braniff (R-So./St. Cloud, Minn./St. Cloud Tech HS)

GopherSports: 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 visualizing it.

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 ever seen.

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 bag?

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 from the Plane to Albuquerque

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Fans!

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.

Go Gophers! Jose Mendez
Go Gophers!
Jose Mendez is off to an impressive start.
Go Gophers!
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,

John Carlson

Coach Carlson's First Blog: Getting Ready for the Season

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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.

Go Gophers! 2002 trophy
Go Gophers!
2002 NCAA championship trophy
Go Gophers!
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, Facebook and GopherSports.com 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 tstith@umn.edu or go to GoldenGopherFund.com.

Fairways, Fairways, Fairways!

John Carlson