Wildcats to host tourney out West (Women’s Golf)

Michael Schlossberg

For the first time ever, the women’s golf team will host a tournament outside the Chicago area when the 14-team Northwestern Invitational tees off Monday in California. Based on the team’s recent performance, the Wildcats might very well crash their own party.

Coming off of a win and a third place finish in its last two events, the team is heading into its own tournament feeling very confident.

“Having played the course several times, I have high expectations for the team and for myself,” sophomore Brittany Johnston said. “I feel that we are all ready and prepared to win. If we all play to our potential, we should expect a win.”

The Cats, ranked 38th in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, competed in the Rio Verde Collegiate March 2-4 as the highest-ranked team in the 17-team field. The team lived up to its ranking as it led after all three rounds to claim an 18-shot victory in wire-to-wire fashion.

Johnston, with a five-over 218, led the team with a second place finish, three strokes behind the individual medalist. It was the first top 10 of the entire season for Johnston.

“Brittany’s great performances have been pivotal for us,” Regenberg said.

Freshman Jennifer Hong and sophomore Alice Kim rounded out the top 10 for the Cats, finishing third and seventh, respectively.

After a three-week break, the team resumed play last weekend at the Mountain View Collegiate, a tournament the Cats won last year. The team just missed defending its title, finishing just two shots behind Kansas and one shot behind Nebraska for third place.

“Back-to-back strong finishes are always confidence builders, but what has given us our momentum is our ability to put up a good number in the final round,” Regenberg said.

Kim paced the Cats with an 11th-place finish, six shots behind the individual tournament champion.

Johnston followed up her runner-up performance at the Rio Verde Collegiate with another strong performance, finishing 14th and two shots behind Kim.

Johnston has posted her two best finishes of the season in her last two tournaments.

“Individually, I have finally achieved some consistency and confidence,” Johnston said. “I worked hard over the winter on some swing changes, and it seems to be working for now.”

The Northwestern Invitational will be played from April 3-4 and features eight teams ranked in Golfweek’s top 50 poll.

“Our team is very excited to be hosting in Palm Springs,” Johnston said. “It is a great course and a very competitive field. It will give us a good idea about where we are competing against some good teams.”

After the Northwestern Invitational, the Cats only will compete in one more tournament, the Buckeye Invitational, before postseason play.

“We have all been working really hard and it is starting to pay off,” Johnston said. “We have had a couple of good finishes and are expecting to do even better in the coming weeks.”

While the women’s golf team heads into the Northwestern Invitational with plenty of momentum, the men’s golf team has struggled in its first two events of the spring season.

The men opened its season with a 13th-place finish at the Puerto Rico Classic. The 18-team field included the top-five ranked teams in Golf World’s men’s coaches poll. Junior David Merkow led the Cats with a seventh place finish.

The Cats then would score a ninth place finish in the 13-team Seminole Intercollegiate.

The team next will compete in the Boilermaker Invitational on Apr. 8-9, but will be without the services of senior Dillon Dougherty, who will be competing in the 70th Masters Tournament at Augusta National after finishing runner-up in the U.S. Amateur Finals over the summer. However, in the two events this spring, Dougherty has struggled, finishing 84th in Puerto Rico and 40th in the Seminole Intercollegiate.

Reach Michael Schlossberg at [email protected]