NU downplays importance of Big Tens tuneup

Andrea Cohen

The Northwestern women’s golf team takes another step toward the NCAA Championships as it heads to Columbus, Ohio, this weekend to play in Ohio State’s Spring Buckeye Invitational. This tournament, which is the No. 19 Wildcats’ final competition before the conference tournament, features 16 teams, including seven Big Ten squads and four teams in the Mastercard top 25.

While the Buckeye Invitational is an important final step to help NU prepare for Big Tens, the Cats are trying to keep it in perspective.

“This is a good course and we usually do pretty well there,” sophomore Elizabeth Burden said. “It’s just another tournament.”

Two rounds of 18 holes will be played on Saturday, and one final round will be played Sunday at the 6,037-yard Scarlet Course. While it is considered fairly difficult, the course is known as one of the best in college golf and is a favorite among NU golfers.

“I think we’ve all played there before,” freshman Hana Kim said. “We will have to hit the greens from regulation, which makes it tough.”

The Cats had last weekend off, so they have spent the last two weeks preparing for the tournament.

“I’ve been working a lot on my short game,” Kim said. “The rough is really thick around the greens, so I’ve done a lot of putting and chipping to get ready.”

Added Burden: “I’ve kept working on all aspects of my game. I’m switching irons – I got new irons, so I’m playing with those this weekend.”

The Cats’ main competition should come from No. 15 Ohio State, No. 18 Michigan State and No. 22 Kent State.

NU’s performance this weekend against the better teams in attendance will be an important indicator for the upcoming championship season.

“We already know that we can (beat them), but beating the stronger teams – Ohio State and Michigan State – will be good for our confidence for the Big Tens,” Burden said.

NU comes off a strong finish at its latest tournament, the Indiana Invitational, where it moved up two places on the final day to finish third. Ohio State finished a spot behind NU and Michigan State won the tournament.

Individually, Burden placed seventh at the Indiana Invitational, making her the top NU finisher in four of the last five tourneys. Kim turned in her best performance of the season, finishing 10th after a 2-under 72 in the final round.

NU will need strong performances from both golfers, as well as junior Emily Gilley, in order to contend for a title this weekend and in the upcoming weeks.

The Big Tens will be played in two weeks in Minneapolis, followed by the NCAA Regionals in May. At the Regionals, the Cats will play to qualify for the NCAA Championships in Florida.

“We’re looking at it as a regular weekend and not hyping it up too much,” Kim said. “It’s a good field and a good course, and we’re trying to treat it just like that.”