Big Ten Matchplay: The University of Minnesota will kick off its 2010 golf season with the Big Ten Match Play Championship at Heron Bay Golf Club in Coral Springs, Fla. Play will begin Friday, Feb. 12th and conclude on Sunday the 14th. From 1997-2002, Heron Bay Golf Club was home to the PGA Tour's Honda Classic. When the course opened in 1996, it was hailed as one of America's 10 Best New Public Golf Courses by Golf Digest Magazine. Indiana University will look to defend its 2009 crown as the Gophers will look to improve on its 1-2 record from last year.
The Lineup: Minnesota's lineup will consist of six players: seniors Ben Pisani and Thomas Campbell, junior Donald Constable, sophomore Derek Chang and freshmen Robert Bell and Erik Van Rooyen. Constable will be making his Gopher debut after transferring from the University of Texas.
Gophers are Big Ten's Team of Decade: The Minnesota Golden Gopher golf program was the clear top Big Ten men's golf program of the decade during the 2000s. The Gophers average finish at the Big Ten Championships was 2.5, easily the best in the conference and they finished in the top half every year including nine top four finishes, three titles and three runner-ups. The next best was Northwestern with an average of 4.2, followed by Purdue (4.4) and Ohio State (4.7).
The conference championships accomplishments were in addition to a huge decade on the national scene. In 2002, the Gophers won their first national championship, becoming the first northern school since 1972 to do so. They made six NCAA Finals appearances in the decade, the most among Big Ten schools, including top ten finishes in 2006 (T-3rd) and 2007 (9th). Purdue and Northwestern were a distant second with four NCAA Finals berths in the decade. Only Michigan, Purdue and Northwestern managed top 10 NCAA finishes during the 2000s. The Gophers also led the Big Ten with nine NCAA Regionals berths in the decade as well. The Gophers picked up 15 All-America awards during the decade, highlighted by Bronson La'Cassie becoming the first four-time All-American in school history (2004-07).
FAU Match Cancelled: The University of Minnesota men's golf team was to open the spring portion of its schedule last weekend with a match against Florida Atlantic University at Fountains Country Club in Lake Worth, Fla. The two teams played for much of the afternoon but the event was cancelled due to darkness.
There were still groups on the course and citing an NCAA rule, all 18 holes must be completed for an 18-hole match to be scored. Weather, more specifically high winds, led to slow play by both teams.
Ben Pisani - A player to watch: Golfweek Magazine announced this fall that Gopher senior Ben Pisani has been listed as their "Player to Watch" for the 2009-10 golf season. Pisani is currently ranked 20th in the most recent Golfweek/Sagarin College individual rankings and 12th by Golfstat's rankings. He finished last season as the 141st ranked player in the nation. This season, Pisani has paced the Gophers with a 70.14 stroke average after five tournaments and has posted five straight top-10 finishes, including a runner-up finish at the 2009 Gopher Invitational.
If his season average holds up, Pisani will hold the program's finest season, according to the stats. Former Gopher All-American and NCAA Champion James McLean holds the top two spots in single season stroke average after finishing with averages of 70.89 and 71.39 in 1999 and 1998, respectively.
Coming Home: Minnesota native Donald Constable, the 2005 and 2006 Minnesota High School State champion at Minnetonka High School, will join the team after two-plus seasons at the University of Texas. Constable will be eligible to compete during the 2010 spring season. A four-year letter winner at Minnetonka High School, Constable was a four-time All-Classic Lake Conference selection. He played two full years for the Longhorns before his recent transfer back to his home state of Minnesota.
While at Texas, Constable held a scoring average of 74.54 in 55 rounds (18 tournaments). He played in four tournaments his freshman season and opened his collegiate career with a tie for 53rd place at the PING Arizona Intercollegiate. Constable also finished in a tie for 43rd at the Fresno State Lexus Classic with a 2-over 218. Constable posted a stroke average of 74.03 in 12 tournaments as a sophomore, scored nine under-par rounds and made two top-20 finishes. Constable also made an appearance in the NCAA Championships, finishing in a tie for 104th. He posted a 72-hole score of 300 in the Big 12 Championships, which was good enough for a tie for 25th.
Up Next: Minnesota will take a week off from competition before returning to action Monday, March 1st at the Braveheart Classic hosted by UC-Riverside. The tournament will take place Monday and Tuesday at Oak Valley Golf Club in Beaumont, Calif.