Men’s Golf: Fishing rod helps NU hook NCAA bid

Sarah Kuta

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A little fishing, some bowling, qualifying for NCAA Championships – just a typical weekend for Northwestern golf.

The Wildcats tied for fourth last weekend at the NCAA South Central Regional in Stillwater, Okla. Since the team finished in the top five, the Cats qualified for the NCAA National Championships, held on May 26-28 in Toledo, Ohio.

The golfers had the chance to relax between rounds before getting focused again, breaking out their fishing rods at the 18th hole and going bowling.

Although the Karsten Creek course was difficult and conditions were less than desirable, coach Pat Goss said he felt the team could have played better.

“It was a tough weekend,” Goss said. “The weather and the course was a tough combo for us. We did a good job of fighting hard and managing our mistakes.”

Freshman Eric Chun placed 13th with a three-round total of 10-over 226, finishing as NU’s top golfer. Chun felt the Cats may have had an edge over the other teams because of their familiarity with playing in poor conditions.

“This is the kind of course where you just grind out pars,” Chun said. “It was good for us. We are good at that. If it was easier, the chances of us doing so well would have been less.”

Last weekend marked Chun’s first appearance at NCAA regionals. After winning the Big Ten Individual Championship and being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Chun said he felt a lot less pressure going into round one.

“It’s really cool to make it to finals my first year,” Chun said. “The pressure is off of us now. We can come in dead last at finals and still have had a good year. But if we’re going to be there, we might as well do our best.”

NU was one of three teams to receive a penalty of one stroke for slow play during the second round. Under NCAA regulations, a player has five minutes to look for a ball before it is declared lost.

After two players in junior David Lipsky’s group lost balls on the same hole, the group was penalized for being too far behind the group in front of them.

Lipsky, who finished in 28th place with a 14-over 230, said he was angered because one stroke can make a significant difference in the results, especially at such an important tournament and difficult course.

“It’s frustrating and something we didn’t deserve,” Lipsky said. “The NCAA did a horrible job of handling the situation. Even the host team’s coach believed the pace the NCAA set was unfair and unreasonable.”

Goss’ solution for the penalty stroke? Going bowling to take the team’s mind off golf for a few hours.

“We obviously can’t think about golf all the time or we’d tire ourselves out,” Lipsky said. “The fishing and bowling were just ways for us to relax and prepare for the next round. We didn’t want to be mentally drained.”

The leisure time proved key for NU as the No. 9 seed at the start of the tournament. Chun said he thought the other schools, including four top-20 teams, didn’t see NU as a threat going into the competition.

“They weren’t looking out for us,” Chun said.

Joining the Cats from the South Central region at the championships are Oklahoma State, TCU, Arkansas and Tennessee-Chattanooga. From the nine Big Ten schools that received a bid to regionals, Illinois, Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan advanced.

“It just shows how strong of a conference we are,” Lipsky said. “The Big Ten shows up to play.”