2002 NCAA Champions
(Originally posted June 1, 2002 on Gophersports.com)
The University of Minnesota men's golf team won its first-ever NCAA Championship Saturday after firing a 6-under par 278 in the final round to defeat second-place Georgia Tech by four shots at the Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ohio. The Golden Gophers were in fourth place after three rounds, but shot the best round of any team for the second consecutive day to surge to the title. Minnesota ended the tournament as the only team below par with a final score of 1,134 (-2).
"I don't think we have even realized that we actually won yet," said Interim Head Coach Brad James. "We had a seven or eight shot lead and we knew there were still a lot of holes to be played. People started to congratulate us and it wasn't even over yet. I still haven't felt the overall excitement of what we have actually done. I think we'll feel it after about a week."
"These guys deserve all the credit. They have worked hard all year. We have been through so many ups and downs the last month and a half ever since the article came out in the Star Tribune about the program being cut. This is something we have been striving for since day one. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens after winning a national title.
"We were not expected to win. Everyone thinks we can't play because we're a Big Ten school and we play in the north. Nothing is ever really written about us having a chance to win. We expect to win. We know we can do it. Everyone's expectations of schools up north is that northern teams can't play and we know we can play. We had no pressure and we had nothing to lose. These guys have played really well when it counted. When I ask them to step it up, they step it up. That shows a lot of heart and courage. It has a lot more to do with having a good golf swing. This team has a bigger heart than any other team I have been with."
Junior Matt Anderson led Minnesota in the final round with a 66. It was the best round by a Golden Gopher in two years, a career-best for Anderson and tied for the lowest round of the tournament by any player. Anderson finished in a tie for eighth place at 3-under 281. The top Golden Gopher finisher was sophomore Justin Smith. Smith finished tied for fourth place at 5-under 279 after carding a 69 in the final round. Smith and Anderson will earn All-America honors for their efforts.
"I started off playing real solid," said Smith. "I made a few pars at the beginning before throwing in a birdie at four. I kind of missed a few short birdie puts coming in off the back nine. I just tried to be aggressive and hit firm putts. The putt on 18, seeing my teammates go crazy was one of the greatest moments of my life."
Junior Wilhelm Schauman shot an even-par 71 Saturday and finished in a tie for 80th place at 9-over 293. Sophomore Simon Nash finished in a tie for 51st place at 5-over 289 after a 74 in the final round. Sophomore David Morgan fired a 72 and finished in a tie for 74th at 8- over 292.
"We had a players meeting last night to talk about what has happened so far in the tournament and where we stood," said Schauman. "We talked about how we could really win this tournament. We couldn't worry about what other people were doing and only worry about ourselves. We talked about how talented we are and to believe in ourselves. All we had to do was relax, go out and enjoy it. We were three strokes down going into today and we knew we had a shot. In college golf, you can make up 10 strokes in two or three holes because you play as a team. We decided to step it up and that's what we did. We had a rule today not to look at the leaderboard. Just worry about ourselves."
It is the third national title for the University of Minnesota this year following the national champion wrestling and men's hockey squads.
2002 NCAA Championships