Spring 2011 Preview:
The Gophers come into the spring portion of the 2010-11 season ranked 84th in the nation by Golfweek.com and feature one of the youngest lineups in the Big Ten. Though led by senior Donald Constable who recorded a top-20 finish in all five events this fall, Minnesota will rely on a rotation of at least seven underclassmen as well as senior Cameroon White.
"The Big Ten is loaded with talent, and I think we are one of those teams. I think our players really were able to grow as a team in the fall. Our younger players have had three months since the end of the season to work on their games and our coaching staff has done a good job preparing them to play. We're looking forward to all of (our younger guys) contributing in a big way."
Despite the amount of youth on the roster, Constable will continue provide veteran leadership for the Gophers as he has done all year. One of the best players in the Big Ten, he led Minnesota in the fall, registering a team best 71.33 scoring average and a second place finish at the Rod Myers Invitational. And although playing his best is clearly important to him, the Wyzatta native is focused on being a mentor to for the young team.
"Being one of two seniors and having had a pretty decent college career, I try to set a good example on and off the course and be a role model the best ways that I can."
Of the younger players, sophomore Erik Van Rooyen figures to be the biggest contributor this spring. The South African finished second behind Constable with a 72.06 scoring average during the fall and posted a team low 66 during the first round of the Alister Mackenzie Invitational where he finished in seventh place.
Also hoping to build on their fall seasons will be fellow sophomores David Haley Jr., Shang Zhi, Tim Peterzen, and Robert Bell. Together the four played a total of 33 rounds in the fall and will look to use their event playing experience to make a big impact in the spring. Joining that group will be freshmen Alex Gaugert, Jon Trasamar, and Garrett Fotu, all of whom played in at least one tournament during the fall.
Along with an under classmen-heavy makeup, the Gophers will also have to contend with the three month break in play due to winter conditions when facing southern teams in the spring. While the respective climates of many programs allow for the ability to play actual rounds during the winter, Minnesota is forced inside. And while they still practice daily at indoor practice facilities, the maroon and gold are clearly at a disadvantage to their southern counterparts.
"It's pretty difficult (to prepare of the season) but the guys have really embraced our off-season conditioning. We try to focus more on technical things in their swings and forget about the scoring portion and focus on individual needs. Whether that be equipment, conditioning, or technique."
Between a roster loaded with young players and three months away from the golf course, the Gophers will have their work cut out for them during the spring. But with steady senior leadership in one of the conference's best and a season of experience under the belts of the under classmen, Minnesota is confident that success is on the horizon this spring.
The Gophers start the season today at the Big Ten Match Play on Fri. Feb 11. in Coral Springs, Florida.
Big Ten Match Play:
Minnesota opens its spring season at the annual Big Ten Match Play in Coral Springs Florida on Friday. Site of PGA Tour event, the Honda Classic, the tournament will be held at PGA National Resort. Along with the Gophers, eight other teams will be playing in their first tournaments of the spring.
A Match-play format, senior Donald Constable is excited about the opportunity to take on teams head-to-head in the event. "We just want to get out and compete because in match-play, it doesn't matter what your rankings are. It's just one team versus another and the numbers don't matter regardless of who you are playing. If we can go out and enjoy ourselves I think we'll play well."
Minnesota is seeded ninth and will take on no. eight Penn State in the first round of the event, with the winner facing no. seven Illinois in the Quarterfinals Friday afternoon. Each match between the schools will be comprised of six head-to-head matchups.
If the Gophers advance, the semifinals, finals, and consolations matches will be held on Sat. Feb 12.
Coach John Carlson is excited about the event as well and believes each match will be competitive . "I look forward to all of these matchups, whether it's the first or the last, coming down to the last couple shots in the round. The "Bear Trap" is one of the toughest courses on the tour and we are really fortunate to be to playing it."
Northwestern returns as the last year's champion, having swept Purdue in the final match to take home the 2010 title.