Gophers, Minus Flanagan, Lose 1 & Tie 2 in Big Ten Matches
February 10, 2021
PALM COAST, Fla. -- The University of Minnesota men's golf team returned to action for the first time in 11 months last week in the Big Ten Match Play Championships, but the Gophers were missing their No. 1 player, Angus Flanagan, a senior from Woking, England. He was in Sea Island, Ga., playing in the prestigious Jones Cup Invitational, where he tied for 22nd place. Minus Flanagan, the Gophers lost the first match they played on Friday, but managed to get a pair of ties on Saturday.
Minnesota was the No. 2 seed, based on the Golfstat Rankings from November, and had a first-round bye on Friday morning. But on Friday afternoon, in the quarterfinal round, the Gophers ran into the eventual tournament champion, Indiana, and lost 4-0-1. Thomas Longbella, playing the No. 1 position in place of Flanagan, earned a tie for Minnesota. Starting on the seventh hole at the Hammock Beach Resort's Ocean Course, Longbella needed an eagle on his last hole, the 526-yard, par-5 sixth, to halve his match with the Hoosiers' Mitch Davis.
On Saturday morning, the Gophers tied Penn State 2-2-1. Lincoln Johnson, a junior from Chaska playing No. 3 for Minnesota, defeated Lou Olskovsky 1 up, and Will Grevlos, a junior from Sioux Falls, won his match at the No. 5 spot, 2&1 over the Nittany Lions' James Allen. The half-point came from Longbella, once again, as the fifth-year senior from Chippewa Falls halved his match at No. 1 with Ryan Davis.
(There are a lot of fifth-year seniors in college golf this year, a result of Covid 19 putting a premature end to the 2019-20 season in March, before any conference or NCAA regional tournaments could be played. Consequently, guys who were seniors last year did not lose a year of eligibility -- and are still seniors this year.)
Grevlos claimed his second victory of the day Saturday afternoon in the Gophers 2-2-1 tie with Purdue. This time, he defeated the Boilermakers' Peyton Snoeberger 3&2. Ben Warian, a freshman from Stillwater (he went to Hill-Murray High School) won at the No. 4 position, 1 up over Herman Sekne, and sophomore Connor Glynn (Waseca) halved the No. 2 match with Purdue's Andrew Farraye.
As for Flanagan, he was busy trying to bolster his resume in hopes of making the Great Britain & Ireland team for the 2021 Walker Cup Matches, which will be played May 8-9 at the iconic Seminole Golf Club in Juno, Fla.
Not that his resume wasn't already pretty impressive. Flanagan capped off his sophomore season with Minnesota in 2019 by winning the Big Ten individual championship, and in the scaled-back golf year of 2020, he won just about everything he played in, starting with the Minnesota State Open at Royal Golf Club in July. He claimed medalist honors at the Western Amateur a couple of weeks later at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind., (the site of the 1991 PGA Championship), and in September he was back in Minnesota, where he won the Minnesota Golf Champions.
The Jones Cup Invitational doesn't have a long history. It was first played in 2001, but its list of winners includes Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed. Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson also played in the tournamet, but didn't win.
This year's winner was Ludvig Aberg, a Texas Tech sophomore from Sweden who began the week No. 17 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. (He's now No. 10.) In a four-man race down the stretch on Sunday afternoon, Aberg stuck his nose in front at the very end, thanks to a birdie on the 480-yard, par-4 18th hole at Ocean Forest Golf Club. He followed a 300-yard drive down the middle of the fairway with a 180-yard 8-iron to 7 feet and converted the putt for a final-round 72 and a 54-hole total of 2-under-par 214.
That gave him a one-stroke victory over Davis Thompson (No. 2 in the WAGR), Cole Hammer (No. 19) and Alex Fitzpatrick (No. 26).
If the winning score at a tournament featuring some of the best amateur golfers in the world is 2 under par, you know the course is really tough. Flanagan started off well enough, with a 71 in the first round, but he was done in by a second-round 80. He had birdied the first three holes on Friday, but on Saturday he was 5 over after five holes and had to birdie the ninth (151 yards, par 3) for a front-side 42. He shot 34 on that same front nine Sunday, but gave two back on the incoming nine in a closing 72.
All of which added up to 223. Had he been able to limit the damage on Saturday and get around in 75, he would have tied for ninth at 218.
Instead, he had to settle for a six-way tie for 22nd place, and he dropped two spots in the WAGR, from No. 35 to No. 37. That wouldn't matter quite so much if the two players who passed him weren't also English -- Joseph Long (now No. 35) and Benjamin Jones (No. 36). The good news is that there will be 10 players on the Great Britain & Ireland squad, and there are only seven GB&I's ahead of Flanagan for now.
If he were to make the GB&I team, Flanagan would be the second Gopher to play in the Walker Cup Matches. John Harris, another former Big Ten individual champion, was the first. He made the U.S. team four times (1993, '95, '97, 2001).
MEN'S COLLEGE GOLF
Big Ten Matches
At Hammock Beach Resort
Palm Coast, Fla.
Minnesota ties Penn State 2-2-1
Thomas Longbella, Minn., and Ryan Davis halved
Alec Baird, Penn. State, def. Connor Glynn 4&2
Lincoln Johnson, Minn., def. Lou Olskovsky 1 up
Jimmy Meyers, Penn State, def. Ben Warian 2 up
Will Grevlos, Minn., def. James Allen 2&1
Minnesota 2-2-1, Purdue 2-2-1
Joe Weiler, Purdue, def. Thomas Longbella 5&3
Connor Glynn, Minn. & Andrew Farraye halved
Cole Bradley, Purdie, def. Lincoln Johnson 3&2
Ben Warrian, Minn. def. Herman Sekne 1 up
Will Grevlos, Minn. def. Peyton Snoeberger 3&2
Indiana def. Minnesota 4-0-1
Thomas Longbella, Minn., & Mitch Davis halved
Clay Merchant, Ind., def. Connor Glynn 5&3
Harry Reynolds, Ind., def. Lincoln Johnson 2 up
Drew Salyers, Ind., def. Ben Warian 1 up
Ethan Shepherd, Ind., def. Harrison Arnold 5&4
MEN'S AMATEUR GOLF
Jones Cup Invitational
At Ocean Forest Golf Club
Par 72, 7,321 yards
Sea Island, Ga.
1. Ludvig Aberg, Sweden 72-70-72--214
T2. Cole Hammer, Houston 70-74-71--215
T2. Davis Thompson, Saint Simons Island, Ga. 70-73-72--215
T2. Alex Fitzpatrick, England 64-77-74--215
5. Spencer Cross, Tenn. 68-76-72--216
T22. Angus Flanagan, England 71-80-72--223