NCAClick Here For Golden Gopher Men's Golf Notes
The Minnesota Golden Gophers travel to West Lafayette, Ind., for the NCAA Central Regional Tournament at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex. Minnesota is the No. 4 seed in the Regional as they attempt to advance to a program record seventh straight NCAA Championship. The Gophers have had one other string of six consecutive trips to NCAAs from 1952-57. Minnesota is one of only six teams to advance to the NCAA Championships each of the past six years and the only northern school.
Leading the way for the Maroon and Gold is two-time All-American Justin Smith. The senior has established himself as one of the top collegiate golfers in the country this season and has always played big in the biggest of tournaments. Smith was a preseason All-American selection by Golfweek, and for the second time in as many years, was named First Team All-Big Ten. He leads the team with a 72.03 stroke average, has won two tournaments this season, and has seven top-10 finishes, including a tie for second at the Big Ten Championships.
Smith's heir apparent atop the Gopher lineup is freshman Bronson La'Cassie. La'Cassie has torn up the Spring season and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The Australian was also named First Team All-Big Ten and tied for fifth at the Big Ten Championships. He garnered All-Tournament honors for his performance. La'Cassie is just behind Smith in stroke average at 72.12 and actually ranks one spot ahead of Smith (38 to Smith's 39) in the Golfweek/Sagarin ratings.
Rounding out the Gopher lineup is senior David Morgan, junior Ben Greve and sophomore Ryan Paulson.
Morgan has played in all the big events in his career and knows what to expect in May and June. He has recorded top-20 finishes in three of the last four tournaments culminating with a career high tie for fifth (in a 54-hole event) at the Big Ten Championships. His 211 at Big Tens was also a career low and he was named second team All-Big Ten and all-tournament for his performance.
Greve has solidified the Minnesota lineup all season. He has played in eight events this season including the last six. Greve is third on the team in stroke average at 73.17 and has the ability to shoot low scores. He tied for 17th at Big Tens and earned second team All-Big Ten recognition.
Paulson is continuing to return from a painful shoulder injury suffered while swimming in Puerto Rico. The sophomore from Minneapolis was forced to miss four events, and came back just two weeks ago. Before the injury, Paulson was the Gophers most consistent player behind Smith with two second place finishes in the fall. Paulson hopes to work his way back into playing shape at the most pressure-packed time of the year.
Six for Six
The Golden Gophers are one of only six teams to have participated in the past six NCAA Championships. Only Minnesota, Arizona, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State have made the trip to the "Big Dance" each year since 1998.