The University of Minnesota men's golf program will open the 2011-12 season by hosting the seventh annual Gopher Invitational Sept. 11-12 at Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata, Minn. The first and second rounds will be played consecutively on Sunday, beginning with a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m. Tee times for Monday's final round will begin at 8:00 a.m. off of holes one and 10. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available on site.
The field, the largest in the tournament's seven years, features 14 teams from 10 different collegiate conferences. The Big Ten Conference has the biggest representation, as the host Minnesota Golden Gophers are joined by the University of Iowa, Penn State University and the University of Wisconsin.
The Nittany Lions are making their Gopher Invitational debut while the Hawkeyes and Badgers are making their fourth and fifth consecutive appearances, respectively, at the par 72, 7,020-yard Tom Fazio designed layout. Wisconsin finished as the runner-up in the 2007 event.
Liberty University, the University of North Texas, Santa Clara University and the University of Houston will also be making their Gopher Invitational debuts this season. The Houston program is as storied as there is in collegiate golf. The Cougars captured 12 NCAA National Titles in a 15-year span from 1956-1970. Houston has 16 total national titles.
Southern Methodist University is making its seventh consecutive visit to the Gopher Invite and will come to Minnesota as the Gopher Invite record holders. The Mustangs, who are under the direction of a new head coach Josh Gregory, set a tournament record with a combined 54-hole score of nine-under par 855 en route to the 2009 title. Former SMU star, and recent U.S. Amateur champion, Kelly Kraft set the individual record that same year with a medalist score of 15-under par 201.
The aforementioned Gregory is making his SMU coaching debut following back-to-back NCAA National Titles as the head coach at Augusta State.
Lamar University is back for a third straight year, and fifth time overall, after taking home the team title in 2007. The Cardinals finished fifth in last year's Gopher Invitational. Rounding out the field is Arkansas (fifth appearance), Kent State (second appearance), Notre Dame (fifth appearance) and Charlotte (third appearance).
The 2011-12 Gophers will be under the direction of newly appointed head coach John Carlson and assistant coach Tyler Stith. Carlson was the associate head coach for the Gophers a season ago while Stith comes to the "U" after spending the past three-plus seasons as an assistant at Iowa, his alma-mater.
On the course, the Gophers will be led by junior Erik Van Rooyen. Van Rooyen appeared in 11 tournaments during his sophomore campaign, finishing with the team's second-lowest stroke average (73.02), the 21st-lowest in the history of the program. He accumulated three top-five and eight top-20 finishes on the season.
Van Rooyen, a native of Oudtshoorn, South Africa, qualified for the NCAA San Diego Regional last season, finishing in a tie for 51st, and was named to the PING All-Region Team. He comes into his junior season with a career stroke average of 74.33 which falls just short of the Gophers' record book. Also returning are juniors Robert Bell, David Haley, Jr., Tim Peterzen and Shang Zhi, sophomores Alex Gaugert, Saul Menendez and Jon Trasamar and redshirt freshmen Colton Buege and Genki Hirayama.
The Gophers will also have four newcomers on the 2011-12 roster, including Kyle Beversdorf (Plymouth, Minn.), Charlie Braniff (St. Cloud, Minn), Patrick Johnston (Orono, Minn.) and Tyler Lowenstein (Plymouth, Minn.). Beversdorf returns to Gold Country following one season at Northern Iowa. He will have to sit-out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.
All-Time Gopher Invitational results and team capsules for the seventh Annual Gopher Invitational are below.
Minnesota - 883 (+19)
Nail Turner - Minnesota (215, -1)
Stanford - 889 (+25)
Colt Knost - SMU (214, -2)
Zach Miller - Stanford (214, -2)
Lamar - 868 (+4)
Casey Clendenon - Lamar (215, -1)
Danny Zimmerman - Wisc. (215, -1)
LSU/Texas - 872 (+8)
Mike Van Sickle - Marquette (213, -3)
SMU - 855 (-9)
Kelly Kraft - SMU (201, -15)
LSU - 869 (+5)
John Hahn - Kent State (206, -10)
Gopher Invitational Team Capsules (2011 Final Ranking): University of Arkansas (16) - Coached by Brad McMakin (6th year at Arkansas)...member of the Southeastern Conference...fifth straight appearance at the Gopher Invite...finished third at the 2010 Invite, second in 2009, ninth in 2008 and second in 2007...collected nine top-5 finishes on the season, including four titles...took sixth at SEC Championships...finished 15th at the 2011 NCAA Championships. Top returning player: Sebastian Cappelen (Sophomore)...finished with a team-low stroke average of 71.79 last season...garnered honorable mention PING All-American honors as a freshman...took second at 2010 Gopher Invitational, one of six top-10 finishes on the season.
University of Iowa (13) - Coached by Mark Hankins (5th year at Iowa)... one of four Big Ten Conference teams in the field...fourth straight appearance in the Gopher Invite field...took sixth at 2010 Invite, fifth in 2009 and fourth in 2008...finished last season with its highest national ranking in school history (13)....took second place at 2011 Big Ten Championships...finished in a tie for 10th place at the 2011 NCAA Championships, the school's highest finish. Top returning player: Chris Brant (Senior)...finished his junior season with a 72.42 stroke average, the second-lowest on the team....honorable mention All-American as a junior...tied for second at the 2011 Big Ten Championships.
Kent State University (31) - Coached by Herb Page (34th year at Kent State)...second straight appearance in the Gopher Invite field...finished second last season...collected eight top-5 finishes on the season, including three titles...won 2011 Mid-American Conference title, the squad's second straight conference crown...finished 19th at 2011 NCAA Championships. Top returning player: Mackenzie Hughes (Senior)...finished junior season with a stroke average of 74.0, second-lowest on the team...comes into the season with a career stroke average of 73.9...won two titles last season, including the MAC Championships with a 4-under-par 284.
Liberty University (34) - Coached by Jeff Thomas (8th year at Liberty)...first appearance in the Gopher Invitational field...collected 10 top-5 finishes on the season, including two titles...won the 2011 Big South Championships...qualified for the NCAA Regionals, finishing 10th. Top returning player: Robert Karlsson (Senior)...finished last season with a team-low scoring average of 71.28...collected six top-5 finishes on the season, including medalist honors at the Rio Pinar Invitational...tied for 15th place at the 2011 Nordea Masters, an event on the European Tour.
University of North Texas (45) - Coached by Brad Stracke (4th year at North Texas)...first appearance in Gopher Invitational field...collected nine top-5 finishes on the season, including the UTA/Waterchase Invitational title...finished second at the Sun Belt Conference Championships...qualified for the NCAA Regionals, finishing ninth. Top returning player: Carlos Ortiz (Junior)...finished last season with a team-low scoring average of 71.25, the lowest in more than 16 years at UNT...collected three medalist titles on the season, including winning the Sun Belt Conference title with a 7-under-par 137....a member of the Mexican World Amateur Team.
University of Notre Dame (48) - Coached by Jim Kubinski (8th year at Notre Dame)... fifth appearance in the Gopher Invite field... finished sixth at the 2009 Invitational, third in 2007, ninth in 2006 and fifth in 2005...collected nine top-5 finishes last season, including three titles...won the 2011 Big East Championships...qualified for the NCAA Regional, finishing ninth. Top returning player: Max Scodro (Senior)...finished last season with the team's lowest stroke average of 73.30... named to PING All-Midwest Region Team... selected as the Big East Conference Player of the Year...captured medalist honors at 2011 Big East Championships.
Southern Methodist University (51) - Coached by Josh Gregory (1st year at SMU)...Gregory is making his SMU coaching debut following back-to-back national titles while head coach at Augusta State...the reigning Golfweek National Coach of the Year...has appeared in all six Gopher Invitational tournaments ...set a new invite record en route to capturing the 2009 Gopher Invite title...finished ninth last season, 10th in 2008, ninth in 2007, third in 2006 and 10th in 2005....qualified for the NCAA Regionals, finishing sixth. Top returning player: Matt Schovee (Senior)...comes into the season with the lowest 2011 stroke average among returners at 75.08...tied for 17th place at the NCAA San Diego Regional.
Charlotte 49ers (59) - Coached by Ryan Cabbage (1st year at Charlotte)...Cabbage comes to the 49ers after 12 years as an assistant at Auburn, the last two with the Auburn women's team...third appearance in the Gopher Invite field...finished fourth in last season's event and fourth in 2009...has won the last six Atlantic 10 Championships...qualified for 2011 NCAA Regionals, finishing seventh. Top returning players: Olafur Loftsson (Senior)...qualified for the 2011 PGA Wyndham Championship this past summer as an amateur, becoming the first-ever Icelandic golfer to participate in a PGA Tournament event...Andy Sajevic (Junior)...comes into the season with the lowest 2011 stroke average among returners at 73.17...has won back-to-back Nebraska State Amateur titles...the reigning Atlantic 10 Men's Golf Student-Athlete of the Year.
Penn State University (74) - Coached by Greg Nye (20th year at PSU)... first appearance in the Gopher Invitational field...collected four top-5 finishes last season...one of four Big Ten Conference teams in the field...won titles at the Maryland Intercollegiate and the Rutherford Intercollegiate...finished ninth at the Big Ten Championships. Top returning player: Ernesto Marin (Junior)... finished last season with the team's second-lowest scoring average of 75.32...played in eight tournaments a season ago...finished in a tie for 12th at the Rutherford Intercollegiate...comes into the season with a career stroke average of 75.35.
Lamar University (72) - Coached by Brian White (12th year at Lamar)...fifth appearance in the Gopher Invitational field...won the 2007 Gopher Invitational team title...finished fifth last season, ninth in 2009 and fifth in 2006...collected four top-5 finishes last season...finished second at the 2011 Southland Conference Championships...qualified for the 2011 NCAA Regionals, finishing 12th. Top returning player: Kevin Hesbois (Senior)...led last year's team with a 73.30 stroke average...collected three top-10 finishes as a junior...finished in a tie for third at the 2010 Gopher Invitational...named second-team All-Southland Conference last season.
Santa Clara University (99) - Coached by Robert Miller (7th year at Santa Clara)...first appearance in the Gopher Invitational field...collected five top-5 finishes on the season...won the Del Walker Intercollegiate...finished fifth at the 2011 West Coast Conference Championships. Top returning player: Cory Mehl (Senior)...comes into the season with the lowest 2011 stroke average among returners at 74.9...has garnered back-to-back first-team All-West Coast Conference honors...tied for fifth place at the UTA-Waterchase Invitational, his best finish of the season.
University of Houston (104) - Coached by Jonathan Dismuke (3rd year at Houston)...first appearance in the Gopher Invitational field...collected five top-5 finishes last season...finished second at the Cabo Collegiate...tied for fourth place at the 2011 Conference USA Championships...one of the most storied programs in NCAA golf history, Houston captured 12 NCAA Championships in a 15-year span from 1956-1970...the Cougars have 16 total NCAA golf titles. Top returning player: Curtis Reed (Sophomore)...led the team last season with a 73.76 stroke average...named to the Conference USA All-Tournament Team...tied for fourth place at the Seminole Intercollegiate, his best finish of the season.
University of Wisconsin (183) - Coached by Michael Burcin (1st year at Wisconsin)...fifth appearance in the Gopher Invite field...finished 10th last season, eighth in 2009, fifth in 2008 and second in 2007...one of four Big Ten Conference teams in the field...finished fifth at the Renaissance Invitational...finished 11th at the 2011 Big Ten Championships. Top returning player: Stephane Dubois (Sophomore)...posted a 74.07 stroke average in 2010-11 to lead the team...the third-best freshman stroke average in the history of the program...best finish was a tie for 14th at Robert Kepler Invitational...led the team in six of team's nine events.