After hosting two tournaments in two weeks to begin the fall, Minnesota's women's golf team finally got a couple weeks to practice before traveling to Colorado to compete in the Ron Moore Intercollegiate over the weekend.
The Gophers finished 10th in the field of 16 teams, their best finish of the season. While the team didn't have much experience golfing at high altitude, that didn't bother them, according to head coach Michele Redman.
"The ball just carries a little further out here," Redman said. "[Sunday] it didn't really because it was pretty cold. There was a little adjustment to the altitude, but they adjusted well."
Minnesota got off to a good start on Friday, shooting a 299 (+11), tied for the sixth-best round of the day. Senior Muyu Wu was the highlight of day two for the Gophers, shooting an even-par 72 which had her in a tie for 9th place among individuals at the time. Though Wu couldn't carry that momentum into her third round, the team had bettered their Friday result shooting a combined 10-over.
The team had some inconsistencies during the week, with some impressive individual rounds and others that didn't go so well.
"That's just a matter of putting right now for us," Redman said. "We're not far off we just have to make some putts."
Sophomore Grace Kellar turned in another impressive performance for the Gophers, finishing in a tie for 17th at the event with a 221 (+5). She now leads the team in scoring at each of their first three tournaments. Despite still being an underclassmen, Kellar's play has allowed her to assume a leadership position within the team.
"Last year, upperclassmen did such a good job leading the team that we're all becoming leaders," Kellar said. "Being able to play well and shoot these low scores will help everybody work harder, so it's nice being a leader in that way.
So far this season, Coach Redman has experimented with her lineup, using a different player in the fifth-slot at each tournament. In Colorado, it was Karen Zhang's turn. Zhang, a freshman, got a chance to compete in the team's first tournament as an individual, but this week got her first chance as a member of the starting five.
"She's come a long way," Redman said. "I think she learned a lot playing in the tournament this week. The greens were definitely a lot quicker than what we're normally used to playing with a lot of slope, so I think she learned a lot about course management.
As is often the case for freshman, Zhang had her ups and downs throughout the tournament. After getting off to an impressive start with a two-over in round one, she struggled on Saturday, shooting an 84 (+12). However, she bounced back over her last 18 holes, shooting another two-over on Sunday.
"There was a lot that I could learn from this weekend," Zhang said. "Especially just working with the coaches to look at the distances and looking at the wind. I feel like getting in that routine consistently will help me stick to my basics."
Colorado State, ran away with first place, shooting 860 (-4) as a team, beating Ole Miss by eleven strokes. The Rams lineup featured Ellen Secor, Katrina Prendergast and Saga Traustadottir, who all finished in the top five among individuals.
Secor took first place with a three-under overall, while Prendergast tied with Mississippi's Conner Beth Ball with a two-under.
Minnesota will now have two more weeks to practice before heading to Nevada, where they will compete in the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown on Oct. 22 in what will be their last tournament of the fall.
"We're in a similar field in Las Vegas as we were here," Redman said. "So I'd like to see us finish a little bit better. We were close this week."