Assist to Fazio as Wildcats advance (Men’s golf)

Michael Schlossberg

The Northwestern men’s golf team must love competing on golf courses designed by Tom Fazio.

After winning the Big Ten/Pac-10 Challenge in the fall at the Glen Club – which was designed by the renowned architect – in Glenview, Ill., and the Big Ten Championships at Fazio’s Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Ill., the Wildcats turned in yet another dominating performance on a Fazio design at the NCAA Central Regionals at Sand Ridge Golf Club in Chardon, Ohio.

The Cats finished second in the 27-team regional, and by virtue of ending up in the top 10, will be returning to the NCAA National Championships after a five-year absence.

“I’m not sure what it is, but we just seem to play well on Fazio courses,” junior Chris Wilson said.

The Cats will be traveling to Sunriver, Ore., to compete in the 30-team championship at Crosswater Golf Course from May 31-June 3. It will be their 22nd all-time national championship appearance and the fifth under the helm of coach Pat Goss, who guided NU to four consecutive appearances from 1997 to 2000.

While Crosswater Golf Course was not designed by Fazio, the players said it reminds them of a Fazio design.

“Fazio makes it possible to score well if you play the right way,” sophomore Kyle Moore said. “He has a good idea of a good risk-reward course that gives you opportunities to score well if you take advantage of it. I think one thing our coach tries to instill in us is how to manage our golf games and how to take advantage of opportunities while still playing smart.”

With a different player shooting the low round each of the three days, the team turned in one of its most balanced performances of the season this past week.

The Cats were led by Wilson and Moore. After shooting an opening round 4-under 67 that put him atop the leaderboard, Wilson shot rounds of 74 and 73 to finish the event in fourth place at 1-over 214.

Moore opened with a 2-over 73 on Thursday that included an eagle on the par-4 10th hole. After his tee shot settled in a divot 150 yards away from the hole, Moore holed his second shot. He shot a 1-under 70 in the second round and an even-par 71 in the third to finish the week at 1-over, tying Wilson in fourth place.

Junior David Merkow finished in 12th place with a 3-over 216. After shooting a bogey-free 68 in the first round, Merkow followed with rounds of 73 and 75.

Sophomore Dan Doyle was the fourth player to finish in the top 20 for the Cats, the most of any team in the field. Doyle led the Cats in the final round with his 2-under 69, one of the best rounds of the day. Doyle finished two shots behind Merkow at 5-over 218 to place 20th.

Senior Dillon Dougherty came in five shots behind Doyle at 10-over 223 to finish in 53rd place. Dougherty was the only NU player to fail to break par during the tournament.

“In order to compete for the title, we are all going to need to play really well,” Moore said. “Everyone in this next field is so good, and we don’t have a lot of room for error. It’s important that we all put it together and play well, and we started to do that this week.”

After finishing the first round in second place, the Cats proved their opening round performance was not a fluke. The team shot the fifth-best score in the second round and the third-best score in the final round to remain in second place after all three rounds, finishing 16 shots behind Oklahoma State, ranked second nationally by Golfweek.

“We obviously got off to a quick start, which was helpful,” Wilson said. “I think we played solid, but we didn’t play our best. If we could put all of our good rounds together in the same day we could be really good.”

Reach Michael Schlossberg at [email protected]