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Men’s Golf: Tough course doesn’t deter Chun, Cats

Sarah Kuta

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All Eric Chun said he wants this weekend is a couple of boring rounds of golf. Nothing more, nothing less.

At one of the toughest courses the team has played so far this year, Chun said he knows the key to his game this weekend will be patience.

“This is a good course for me and the way I play,” he said. “I’m a slow player. I just need to stay patient and hit it real well.”

Northwestern begins the NCAA Regional Championships today in Stillwater, Okla. The tournament, which is being held at the Karsten Greek Golf Club, is hosted by Oklahoma State.

NU is one of 13 teams playing in the Oklahoma regional and will start the tournament as the No. 9 seed. The top five teams from each of the six regional tournaments will advance to the NCAA Championships on May 26 in Toledo, Ohio.

After a disappointing seventh place at the Big Ten Championships two weekends ago, coach Pat Goss’ main concern is the difficulty of the course.

“So much hinges on the course being so tough,” Goss said. “This is one of the hardest or possibly the hardest courses we have played.”

Before the tournament began this morning, NU had two days of full practice on the course. Goss said the key to playing such a rigorous course is not to play aggressive golf, but to play a “grind-it-out” kind of golf. This means accepting bogeys and pars without getting frustrated to minimize mistakes.

Along with the tricky course, the Wildcats will face four top-20 teams, including No. 2 Oklahoma State and No. 9 Arkansas. After winning its last two tournaments, host Oklahoma State will be competing for its 63rd straight NCAA Championship appearance this weekend.

Goss said he hopes that by playing alongside other high-ranking teams at the U.S. Intercollegiate earlier this season, NU will be prepared for this weekend’s competitive field.

“We’re always striving to push ourselves to play at a higher level,” Goss said.

This is NU’s 10th appearance at NCAA Regionals during Goss’s 13-year tenure. NU has advanced to five NCAA Championships under Goss, most recently in 2006. Since teams must be .500 to receive a bid, the Cats were not invited last year.

“Despite our performance at Big Tens, I think everyone is just excited for the opportunity to play,” Goss said.

Senior Andy DeKeuster, who joined the team as a sophomore, will be playing in his first NCAA Regional Championship this weekend. Once play is complete, DeKeuster will also be blogging for golfweek.com. The senior journalism major said he was approached by the magazine because he is considering taking a job at the publication after graduation.

Chun will also be golfing in his first NCAA championship, but said he isn’t too worried about the other teams’ rankings. After winning the Big Ten Individual Championship, Chun said he has more confidence than the average freshman.

“I’m feeling a lot less pressure,” Chun said. “They are good teams but I can’t let that intimidate me. It definitely helps because now I know that I can beat some of the best guys out there. I hope it will shake them a little.”

Chun recently competed in the local qualifier for the U.S. Open. The freshman moved past the preliminary round and will compete in the sectional qualifier on June 8th in Grayslake, Ill. Because of that tournament, Chun spent more time playing this week than practicing.

“My game is looking solid, but the practice rounds are real important,” Chun said. “It’s about smart course management. I need to practice the shots that I need for this course and know how I need to play.”

The conference took note of Chun and teammate David Lipsky’s performance this season. Both were named to the All-Big Ten second team after their performances at the conference championships. Lipsky, who finished 38th, said he would have liked to have made the first team. But he said he thought the award was an indicator that regionals would be a chance to show improvement.

“It was bittersweet,” Lipsky said. “My game just wasn’t there at Big Tens or the past two weeks. I am just looking forward to working hard at NCAAs.”

Chun was also named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Though he said he doesn’t think the other teams see NU as a threat, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Maybe it’s a good thing,” Chun said. “There’s a lot of potential on this team and we all know what we have to do. I’ve seen the team play well. We’re real golfers.”

sarahkuta2012@u.northwestern.edu

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