The Gopher Invitational:
The Nation's Finest Collegiate Tournament
The Gopher Invitational has called Windsong Farm Golf Club (Independence, Minn.) for the past two years. The tournament's 10th playing took place Sept. 7-8, 2014. Windsong Farm is a private golf course designed by the Fought-Lehman Golf Course Architecture firm. Opened in 2003, Windsong measures 7,380 yards and has a par 71 layout.
"Windsong Farm Golf Club is set on one of the most beautiful backdrops in Minnesota," Minnesota head coach John Carlson said. "From well bunkered fairways and greens to lightning fast putting surfaces, the golf course will challenge even the most seasoned collegiate player. As host to our Gopher Invitational, players will be treated to 7300 yards of pure golf."
The Gopher Invitational has featured between 11 and 15 teams each year. Seven of the teams in the 2014 field, including the Big Ten champion host Golden Gophers, had made NCAA Regional appearances the previous spring.
Joining Minnesota for the 2015 Gopher Invitational will be Baylor, Cal, East Tennessee State, Iowa, Iowa State, Kent State, Michigan, Michigan State, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pepperdine, SMU, St. John's (Minn.) and UNC-Charlotte.
The University of Minnesota won the inaugural Gopher Invitational in 2005. Not only did it capture the team title by a tiebreaker over the Washington Huskies, but junior Niall Turner won the individual title by one stroke, firing a 1-under-par 215 for the weekend. The win was Turner's first collegiate tournament victory in his career.
Spring Hill Golf Club played host to the inaugural Gopher Invitational. Twelve of the nation's best collegiate golf programs competed, half of those teams were coming off appearances at the 2005 NCAA Championships. The inaugural field included Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Indiana, Memphis, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Purdue, Southern Methodist, Stanford, UAB, UNC Wilmington and Washington.
2006 saw Stanford and Minnesota battle down to the final holes with the Cardinal coming away with the team title by five shots. Stanford senior Zack Miller and SMU senior Colt Knost tied for medalist honors with a final 54-hole score of 214 (-2).
|Peter Wong Photography|
In 2007, Lamar University ran away with the title by carding a Gopher Invitational record team score of 4-over par 868. The University of Wisconsin and the University of Arkansas tied for second place at 26-over par 890. Lamar's Casey Clendenon and Wisconsin's Danny Zimmerman both recorded 1-under par scores of 215 to tie for the individual title.
The 2008 Gopher Invite saw Texas and LSU tie for the team championship with scores of 872 (+8). The Longhorns were awarded the championship trophy by tiebreaker, which was determined by the cumulative score of the fifth-place finisher of each team. Marquette's Mike Van Sickle fired an even-par 72 in the final round to claim individual medalist honors by two shots over Texas' Charlie Holland, Arkansas' David Lingmerth and Iowa's Cole Peevler.
The 2009 field included 12 teams from 10 different collegiate conferences. The Gophers started the fifth annual invite on fire, as they posted a combined score of 1-over par 577 (292-285) and were tied for second place with the University of Arkansas after 36 holes. Southern Methodist University, a squad making its fifth consecutive visit to the Gopher Invite, held the lead by two strokes after posting rounds of 285 and 290.
SMU pulled away during the final 18 holes to take the team title with a Gopher Invitational record score of 9-under par 855. The Razorbacks finished second at 1-over par (865) while the Gophers were third with a score of 8-over par (872). SMU's Kelly Kraft used a final round 64, a Spring Hill Golf Club record, to take home medalist honors. Minnesota's Ben Pisani, who broke the course record himself on day one of the event, finished second with a score of 7-under par 209.
LSU captured the 2010 title and in the process became the first multiple-time winner in tournament history. The Tigers overcame a 10-stroke deficit after 18 holes to grab a two-shot lead over Kent State after 36 holes. The margin increased throughout the final day as LSU posted the low round en route to the title.
Kent State's John Hahn took home medalist honors by posting two of the tournaments nine sub-70 rounds - 68 & 67 on the opening day - and a final round 71 to win by six strokes over Sebastian Cappelen of Arkansas.
The University of Arkansas came away with the 2011 team title by three strokes over North Texas. The Razorbacks fought back from eight strokes down after 18 and four strokes down after 36 on the way to the title. Three of the top eight individuals were from Arkansas, led by Ethan Tracy, who finished in fifth place.
Chris Brant of Iowa used a final round 69 at Spring Hill to capture medalist honors. He won by one shot over his teammate Barrett Kelpin. The Hawkeye duo were the only players in the field to record 54-hole cards of under par.
In 2012, the University of California Golden Bears captured the team title by 14 strokes over second place SMU. The Golden Bears led wire-to-wire. Cal had a pair of individuals that finished in a tie for second but Kent State's Corey Conners overtook the duo in the final nine holes to claim medalist honors by one stroke with a 3-under par 213.
New Mexico won the ninth annual Gopher Invitational in 2013. Baylor took a lead after the first round, but the Golden Bears (848) ended up winning by six shots. Corey Conners became the Gopher Invite's first repeat champion when won by one stroke. Conners (7-under 206) edged out Cal's Brandon Hagy.
"Windsong is a great golf course," New Mexico head coach Glen Millican said. "I thought it was a great test. I thought it was very fair. They had it set up tough, but you can tell they could take it even further. This course is probably a great course because it can be set up somewhat tough for daily play, but there's no question they can get it set up very, very challenging for a tournament such as this with the great field that they had. I thought the course was fantastic."
Baylor (10-over 862) took home the 2014 title, becoming the 10th different school to take at least a share of first place in 10 years of the tournament. The Bears won by 16 strokes. Charlotte's Victor Wiggins carded a 5-under 208 to capture medalist honors with a four-stroke lead.
The Gopher Invitational History
|2005||The University of Minnesota||+19 (883)|
|2006||Stanford University||+25 (889)|
|2007||Lamar University||+4 (868)|
|2008||Louisiana State University||+8 (872)|
|University of Texas||+8 (872)|
|2009||Southern Methodist University||-9 (885)|
|2010||Louisiana State University||+5 (869)|
|2011||University of Arkansas||+16 (880)|
|2012||University of California||-2 (862)|
|2013||University of New Mexico||-4 (848)|
|2014||Baylor University||+10 (862)|
|2005||Niall Turner, Minnesota||-1 (215)|
|2006||Zach Miller, Stanford||-2 (214)|
|Colt Knost, SMU||-2 (214)|
|2007||Casey Clendenon, Lamar||-1 (215)|
|Danny Zimmerman, Wisconsin||-1 (215)|
|2008||Mike Van Sickle, Marquette||-3 (213)|
|2009||Kelly Kraft, SMU||-15 (201)|
|2010||John Hahn, Kent State||-10 (206)|
|2011||Chris Brant, Iowa||-2 (214)|
|2012||Corey Conners, Kent State||-3 (213)|
|2013||Corey Conners, Kent State||-7 (206)|
|2014||Victor Wiggins, Charlotte||-5 (208)|
|Peter Wong Photography|