– The Gophers men’s golf team, led by individual co-champion Jose Mendez, held off hard-charging Illinois in the fourth and final round of the 72-hole Big Ten tournament on Sunday, ending the Illini’s five-year reign atop the conference.

The Gophers beat second-place Illinois by four strokes with a four-round total of 34 over par at the par-72 7,152-yard Pete Dye Course. It’s the eighth Big Ten men’s golf title in school history, the fourth since 2002, and the first under coach John Carlson.

Mendez, a freshman from Costa Rica, and Illinois’ Charlie Danielson shared medalist honors, both shooting 1-over 289. Mendez shot rounds of 69, 74, 73 and 73. The last Gophers medalist was Matt Anderson in 2003.

The Gophers’ Jon Trasamar tied for third place at 6-over 294. The other members of the team were Jon DuToit (tied for 12th), Alex Gaugert (tied for 20th) and Tyler Lowenstein (60th).

“This was a big win for Gopher golf and the state of Minnesota,” Carlson said. “I know a lot of people from our state want success from this program. These five guys played great — they battled tough conditions and a tough course, and we came away the victors.”

The Gophers, leading by seven strokes after three rounds (two Friday, one Saturday), had their best day of the tournament on Sunday, and they needed it, because Iowa (4 under) and Illinois (1 under) were posting the two best rounds of the weekend. Minnesota’s four individual scores produced a 2-over 290 total after a 295, 300 and 301 in the first three rounds.

The Illini pulled even with the Gophers after 16 holes of the final round, but they went 3 over on the final two holes while the Gophers went 1 under.

“We rallied early and played pretty good golf for most of the day,” Illinois coach Mike Small said. “But congratulations to Minnesota; they played great. They didn’t open any cracks for us to sneak into today.”

Iowa ended up third after starting the day in sixth.

With the team title, Minnesota earned the Big Ten’s automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. Regional play is May 15-17, and the national championships are May 26-28 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.

The Gophers’ eight Big Ten titles tie them with Indiana and Northwestern for the fifth most in conference history.

TV notes

NCAA regional assignments will be announced at 9 a.m. Monday on the Golf Channel. BTN will provide tape-delayed coverage of the Big Ten tournament on May 14 at 6 p.m.