In their final regular season tournament, Minnesota finished in the top six for the third consecutive outing. A strong start to the weekend positioned the Gophers for a fifth-place tie with UMKC in the Hawkeye Invitational in Iowa City, Iowa.
Minnesota finished with a 7-under 845 thanks to a career-best 54-hole score from sophomore Angus Flanagan and junior Thomas Longbella's best finish on the leaderboard this season. Associate head coach Justin Smith is optimistic about the team's chances in the Big Ten Tournament next weekend after seeing how the team fared against the five other Big Ten teams competing in Iowa.
"It's good to see what we're up against," Smith said. "With Iowa and Illinois doing so well. We've got some really good teams in the Big Ten, but with our guys, this is what we've built to all spring, is getting our games to peak for the Big Ten Championships and beyond."
For the first time in his college career, Flanagan shot all three rounds of a tournament under 70, going 69-69-68. He concluded with a career-best 206 (-7), finishing in a tie for ninth place among individuals.
"It was kind of coming," Flanagan said. "I was playing well coming into it. It just felt good to get it done. Obviously, shooting three rounds in the 60s feels good. It was a nice pat on the back at the end of [the season]."
While Flanagan's performance was in line with his strong spring, Longbella's tournament represented a personal resurgence. After failing to finish under-par in nine-consecutive rounds, the junior shot a 68 (-3) and a 70 (-1) on Saturday. Following a 1-over 72 in the final round, Longbella tied for 16th among individuals with a 210 (-3).
"I've been waiting for this moment to finally feel like I'm playing good again," Longbella said. "This was a big confidence booster for me going into the Big Tens, so I'm excited for that."
Sophomore Evan Long shot two rounds under-par on Saturday with a 69 and 70 respectively, eventually finishing in a tie for 37th overall with a 216 (+3). Freshman Harry Plowman-Ollington tied for 48th with a 6-over 219 and fellow freshman Lincoln Johnson rounded out the lineup with a 222 (+9).
Minnesota received strong performances from the two individuals sent south to Iowa. Redshirt sophomore Gus Minkin and freshman Will Grevlos both shot career-bests in the second round. Minkin shot a 3-under, 68, and Grevlos shot a 1-under, 70. Grevlos finished with a 218 (+5), tied for 43rd. Minkin finished with a 220 (+7), tied for 52nd.
Iowa shot a blistering 43-under 809 to win the tournament. A pair of Hawkeyes' golfers, senior Matthew Walker and junior Alex Shaake tied for first place among individuals, both shooting 199 (-14) on the weekend.
Starting next Friday, Minnesota will match-up with Iowa once again, along with the 12 other members of the Big Ten for the conference championship, at Philadelphia Cricket Club in Flourtown, Pennsylvania.
"There's no question that there's a lot of good things going on." Smith said. "We've got to figure out how to play par-4's a little bit better and if we finish off our rounds just a little bit cleaner there's no doubt we can be in the mix with those best teams next week."