Men’s Golf: Goss grabs 10th tourney appearance

Sarah Kuta

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The competition at the Big Ten Championships died Sunday. There will be no visitation. There were no survivors.

Though the cause of death is still unknown, officials say the number-one suspect is Eric Chun.

Chun won the individual championships with a 1-under 283 and was the only golfer to finish below par. He is the ninth Wildcats golfer to win the championship and the first freshman to win since current PGA Tour veteran Steve Stricker in 1986.

“I don’t even know what I felt,” Chun said. “It really didn’t hit me until I got on the plane. It’s real special. It’s an honor.”

Northwestern finished seventh out of eleven teams last weekend at the 2009 Big Ten Championships in State College, Pa, with Chun leading the way. He shot two birdies before achieving 11 pars and three birdies during the first round. During round two, he shot four birdies and one bogey for a 36-hole total of 4-under 138.

“During the first two rounds, I probably played some of the best golf in my life,” Chun said.

Chun shot an even-par 71 during the third round, with three birdies and three bogies to maintain a four-stroke lead. Coach Pat Goss said Chun played “beautifully” throughout the third round.

During the fourth round, Chun made 15 pars and three bogies for a 3-over 74. Though Chun said he was disappointed with his last two rounds, his inconsistent play was an indicator that he still has room to improve.”I was 5-over in my last 20 holes,” Chun said. “I’m not real happy with the last 20, but I’m kind of glad it happened, because it’s going to make me work that much harder. It was too close – I should’ve won by a lot more.”

During the final round, Chun was able to hold off No. 28 Kevin Foley of Penn State, who finished at even par.Throughout the weekend, Chun played with Indiana senior and second-ranked Jorge Campillo, and other ranked players.

“I saw his game and there’s not much of a difference (from mine),” Chun said. “The only thing is the consistency of his finishes, but that’s it.”

For the rest of the team, Chun’s victory was bittersweet. NU finished five strokes behind sixth place Iowa and two strokes ahead of No. 42 Michigan and Purdue. No. 15 Illinois won the team championship, finishing 13 strokes ahead of second place Minnesota and 28 strokes ahead of NU.

Junior Jonathan Bowers finished 28th with a 13-over 297, while junior David Lipsky and sophomore Josh Dupont tied for 38th with a 16-over 300. Dupont attributed the team’s bottom-half finish to a weak final round and a difficult course. Though Dupont was the only NU golfer with experience on the Blue Course, a thick rough made even small mistakes fatal.

“If you didn’t hit the fairways, you didn’t have a chance,” Dupont said. “We had an opportunity to win or finish higher in the final round, but we struggled.”

NU jumped two spots during the third round to finish in a four-way tie for fourth. But a slow start during the final round prevented the Cats from finishing in the top half.

“It’s been a mystery all season,” Goss said. “We’ve just been playing horribly in that last round. There’s no reason why we couldn’t have finished 2nd or 3rd.”

There is no mystery that NU received word on Monday of its at-large No. 9 seed for the NCAA Regionals in Stillwater, Okla., on May 14. The Cats are one of nine Big Ten schools to gain entry into the field of 81 teams, divided among six regional tournaments. Both Dupont and Goss hope NU can use Chun’s success as motivation for the rest of the postseason.

“Eric has put in a ton of effort over the last few weeks,” Goss said. “When you see a person who works that hard win, it helps you to realize just how close you are.”

As for Chun’s golf attire, he may have to permanently trade in his purple for black.

“It proves to me that if I can win this as a freshman, I can win anything,” Chun said. “Hopefully it won’t be the last one.”