Wind, rain derail NU’s chances for national championships (Men’s Golf)

Adam Grossman

Senior Bjorn Widerstedt had the final nine holes at the Central Regional qualifier to extend his college career.

With the Wildcats eliminated from the team competition, Widerstedt knew he needed to make some birdies to overtake Lamar’s Chris Stroud and qualify for the NCAA Championships as an individual.

But, as was typical throughout the spring for Northwestern’s men’s golfers, Widerstedt could not make the shots he needed. He finished his college career with a 3-under 213 and a 14th-place finish.

“I had a lot of good birdie opportunities on the back nine of the final round,” Widerstedt said. “Right after I finished, I was really disappointed that I didn’t qualify. However, the most disappointing thing is to be done with college golf.”

NU ended its season with another disappointing finish as the Cats ended up 22nd out of 27 teams last weekend at the Colbert Hills Country Club in Manhattan, Kan. NU failed to make the NCAA Championships for the third consecutive year.

The Cats were in 11th place after one round of competition after shooting a 1-under 287. But any hope of advancing to the national tournament ended with a 20-over 308 combined score in the second round, dropping NU 13 spots to 24th place.

Heavy wind and rain on Friday caused almost every team in the field to shoot higher scores than in the first or third round.

The Cats were especially affected by the weather and had the second-highest team score for any squad during any round of the tournament. Juniors T.C. Ford and Casey Strunk each shot 11-over 82s on Friday.

“That’s the round that separated the field,” Scott Harrington said. “The teams that held together gave themselves the best chance to move on.”

NU bounced back from the second round with a 1-over 289 in the third and moved up to 22nd place overall. Only the top 10 teams from the region advance to the national championships.

The Cats finished 13 shots back of 10th-place Wichita State. Oklahoma State, which is hosting this year’s NCAA Championships, came from behind on the last day of competition to take the team title by five strokes over Illinois.

The failure of any golfer to qualify individually for the NCAA Championships compounded NU’s dissatisfaction with the tournament. Only two spots are given to golfers whose teams do not make it to the NCAA Championships.

Senior Bjorn Widerstedt finished three strokes behind Stroud, who won the final at-large birth. Houston’s Brett Callas received the other invitation and won the individual title as well.

Widerstedt was the only NU golfer to finish in the top 45.

First-team All-Big Ten performer Tom Johnson was expected to be in the hunt for the individual title coming off a second-place finish at the Big Ten championships.

But NU’s top-ranked golfer only managed to have one round under par and finished the tournament in 48th place with a 4-over 220. Johnson qualified for the NCAA tournament last year as an individual, placing 86th overall at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course.

Harrington’s college career ended with a 85th-place finish with an 8-over 224.

The senior picked up his first career victory earlier this season at the Rice Invitational in February but was unable to finish higher than 13th in any other tournament this spring.

“I would have loved to play in the NCAAs,” Harrington said. “The last three years we easily had good enough teams to get there.”