Even though it’s only the first tournament of its season, the Penn State men’s golf team will already be getting its first taste of Big Ten competition when it travels to the Gopher Invitational this weekend.
The tournament is entering its eighth year, but this will only be the Nittany Lions’ second trip to the event. They debuted in the tournament last year, finishing ninth in the 14-team field.
Head coach Greg Nye said being familiar with the course his team is playing on this time around will be beneficial.
“We certainly know the characteristics of the golf course and what type of performance is necessary,” Nye said. “That’s a terrific scouting report for us going into an event.”
Senior Anthony DeGol also said the familiarity of the course will help the Lions.
“It’s a huge advantage, especially for players like myself and Jay [Woodward] who are returning, because we know a little more strategy with the course,” he said.
Minnesota is hosting the tournament, which is located at the par 72, 7,020-yard Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata, Minn. Two rounds will be played on Sunday, with the final round scheduled to be played Monday.
Iowa will also be representing the Big Ten at the event.
While Nye said he did not think playing Big Ten teams this early will make much of a difference, some players, like Jens Talbert, are looking forward to seeing how they compare to the conference competition.
“One of our goals this year is to win Big Ten,” said the sophomore. “To see where you stack up against a Big Ten opponent at the beginning of the year is a great way to start off.”
No. 6 California, No. 12 Arkansas, No. 15 Kent State and No. 20 New Mexico are teams entering the tournament listed in Golfweek’s final top 25 of 2012. The Lions will have to play at the top of their games to contend for the lead, and Nye said he is looking forward to seeing how his team performs.
Other teams appearing in the tournament include Arizona State, Charlotte, Lamar, Memphis, North Texas, Oklahoma, Southern Methodist and St. John’s (of Minnesota), composing the largest field the tournament has ever seen.
“I think it’s going to be a tough test on a real nice course with a bunch of really good teams, so I don’t know how you get much better than that,” Talbert said.