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Men’s Golf: Kepler win keeps Cats focused on bigger goals

Sarah Kuta

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Regular season tournament win?

Check.

Second place at the start of three consecutive final rounds?

Check.

Two individual runner-up finishes in the last three weeks? Big Ten Golfer of the Week? Individual named to the Big Ten Match Play All-Tournament Team?

Check. Check. Check.

The only feat missing from Northwestern’s resume this season? A win against a top-25 team.

This weekend, the Wildcats plan to check that one off, too.

“There is one glaring hole in what we’ve accomplished this season,” coach Pat Goss said. “That becomes the next step for us.”

The Cats head to Palo Alto, Calif. this weekend for the U.S. Intercollegiate. After winning last weekend’s Kepler Intercollegiate, NU has more motivation than ever to improve on its mistakes and perform well.

“It’s always more fun to win,” freshman Eric Chun said. “I’ve seen a lot of the guys enjoying golf more this week at practice, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot to improve on from last weekend.”

Coming off its first victory of the season, NU is ranked 53rd and has passed the .500 mark on the year. The Cats will face 16 teams, including tournament-host No. 4 Stanford, No. 3 Southern California, No. 8 Washington, No. 15 Texas, No. 18 UCLA and No. 22 Arizona State. Five top-25 individual players will also be competing.

“This is a good field,” sophomore Josh Dupont said. “It’s obviously a lot higher caliber teams than we’ve been playing.”

Dupont led NU at the Kepler Intercollegiate by finishing second and by shooting the tournament’s only under-par score. While winning was a confidence boost, Dupont said, the team’s outlook for the U.S. Intercollegiate is no different than for any other tournament.

“It’s going to give us an opportunity to showcase what we can do against these top-25 teams,” he said. “We’ve been playing well, but we still need to work hard. The season is far from over.”

Junior David Lipsky finished seventh at the Wyoming Cowboy Classic a week and a half ago, and Jonathan Bowers finished second the weekend before at the FAU Spring Break Championship. This individual inconsistency has plagued NU since the start of the season, but it is also what has kept Goss convinced of his team’s ability.

“It shows that we are good enough to beat these top teams,” Goss said. “If we can put all of it together, we’re set.”

Chun finished a season-best sixth at the Kepler Intercollegiate and also scored his first collegiate hole-in-one on the 13th hole. After two consecutive near-wins, Chun and the Cats finally know what it feels like to win.

“We have the resources,” Chun said. “We have been in the position to win for the past three weeks, and now we’ve done it. So much of golf is just trusting in your own abilities.”

Though he is a freshman, Chun understands he has to play with confidence if he wants to win.

“I can’t control the results, and I can’t control the way others play,” he said. “I can control the way I play and the way I think.”

For Chun, the way to beat a top-25 team is simple.

“The harder you work, the better you get,” he said. “So many guys go out there looking for luck. They hope to play well. Instead we need to expect to play well.”

sarahkuta2012@u.northwestern.edu

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