Cats get rained out of NCAA regionals

Andrea Cohen

A tournament that was finally starting to come together fell apart for the Northwestern women’s golf team this weekend, as it battled the top teams in the country and the weather at the NCAA East Regional.

After two rain delays on the afternoon of the final round in Chapel Hill, N.C., officials called the tournament. NU and the other six teams who teed off in the afternoon could not fit in their round and they all officially finished in a tie for 15th, missing the eight-team cut to advance to the NCAA championships.

True to the seeding, No. 1 Duke won the tournament for the second consecutive year with a team total of 871. No. 3 Auburn finished second with an 879 and No. 5 Georgia rounded off the top three with an 887. New Mexico, South Florida, South Carolina, San Jose State and Pepperdine also qualified for the NCAAs in Florida next week.

For NU it was an aggravating end to the season. Players said they were extremely frustrated by the mathematical elimination from the tournament – the Cats were enjoying a strong round Sunday.

Then the first of the two rain delays came, halting NU’s comeback.

The difficult Finley Golf Course, dried out from a month-long North Carolina drought, was ill-prepared to handle the rain. Huge puddles and excessive mud hindered the golfers once play resumed after the initial showers.

“On the final day we finally put it together,” NU freshman Hana Kim said. “At the turn, four out of the five of us were around even par, where we needed to be. It was so frustrating because we were on a roll, and it was hard to stop, sit in a hut for an hour and a half, and wonder if play was going to continue.

“It just felt like we hacked at the rest of the round in vain, like we were climbing against the odds.”

Only two NU players, Kim and freshman Lauren Grzebien, were able to finish the round.

“Under different circumstances, if we got to play a full round in nice weather, the outcome would have been different,” sophomore Elizabeth Burden said.

The Cats struggled throughout the first round on Thursday, finishing tied for 18th in the field of 21 teams. But NU managed to move up five spots on Friday, putting them 15 strokes shy of the coveted eighth and final spot.

Burden shot a 78 Thursday, good for 55th place individually.

“On the first day, my game was not where it needed to be,” she said. “I was putting well, but my putts didn’t fall. My long game just wasn’t there.”

The five-spot jump was due mostly to improved second rounds from Burden, who shot a 73, and junior Emily Gilley, who carded a 74.

“On the second day we knew we had a lot of ground to make up,” Kim said. “Emily and Elizabeth really came through for us. Unfortunately, we had to take Lauren’s 82 because I had an 85. I felt pretty bad, and I think everyone feels guilty and responsible when you’re losing.”

On Saturday, the teams the Cats had to catch played in the morning, free of the rain that plagued the afternoon tee-offs.

Although the East regional had talent, the Cats felt that if given a fair shot they would be advancing to the NCAAs.

“We had a strong region but we are definitely in the top eight of those teams,” Burden said. “We just needed to play better.”

Added Kim: “Every girl on Duke, and lots of girls on the other leading teams, I played against in junior golf and beat them; I know we’re as good as them. I’m not intimidated by them. They could pull it together and we couldn’t. I really have no idea why not, but they were able to tie loose ends and balance each other out and we couldn’t.”

With a disappointing conclusion to a season that had great potential throughout, the Cats are looking forward to getting back to the postseason next spring.

NU loses just one of its five-member tournament lineup – senior Christie Hermes – and will pick up a pair of signees: Mary Ellen Grzebien and All American Ina Kim, both sisters of current NU players.

“We have good players coming in and I think we’ll be stronger,” Burden said. “We just need to get ready and motivated for next year.”