Men’s Golf: Chun catching championship fever

Sarah Kuta

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Eric Chun’s father and former coach might lose a little sleep this week. Or better yet, a lot of sleep.

With a 14-hour time difference in South Korea, Chun’s father may have to stay up later than usual to watch the live scoring of his son’s first NCAA championship.

“We talked about it, and he thinks I just need to go out there and play my game,” the freshman said. “No worries or fear.”

Northwestern begins play today at the NCAA Championships in Toledo, Ohio. The Wildcats are one of 30 teams, including five Big Ten teams, to advance after tying for fourth at the NCAA South Central Regional in Stillwater, Okla. two weekends ago.

Chun, whose family is originally from South Korea, led the Cats to a fourth-place finish with a team-best 10-over 226, good for 13th place individually. He was recently named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year after winning the Big Ten individual championship.

The NCAA Championships will give Chun one more shot to improve on his already successful first season at NU.

“I’m just really happy we made it,” he said. “We didn’t play our best at regionals.”

To advance, the Cats had to finish in the top-five of 13 teams at regionals. NU barely squeezed by, sharing fourth place with No. 16 TCU.

Though the difficult Karsten Creek course in Stillwater and tough weather conditions may have been detrimental to the other teams competing for a top-five spot, NU used its Midwest experience to rise to the challenge.

This week will be no different at the Inverness Club in Toledo.

“The rough will be long and the greens are going to be fast,” Chun said. “Lots of small, fast greens and not much undulation. We’re just going to have to go deep and take pars.”

With a tricky course ahead of them, the golfers have been preparing this week by working on their putts and using their short game to keep scores low.

“We’ve also been taking advantage of our facilities that are most similar to what we’ll be playing on,” coach Pat Goss said.

This is NU’s sixth appearance at the NCAA Championships under Goss. With only one graduating senior, Goss said qualifying this year may mark the beginning of a successful future for NU golf.

“This was a tough regional to advance out of,” Goss said. “I’ve seen a lot of my teams get stuck at regionals – it’s a hump they can’t get over. With so many players returning, this bodes well for the future.”

Even with a promising future, junior David Lipsky said he didn’t think the field, including nine of the top-10 nationally-ranked teams, really saw NU as a menace – yet.

This year, the NCAA team champion will be determined with two days of match play after 54 holes of stroke play. For the first time since 1965, the team title will not be awarded by total strokes.

“With the match play, it’s anybody’s game,” Lipsky said. “I definitely think we have a chance of being in the elite eight.”

If NU finishes the first three days in the top eight, it will advance to two more days of match play. If that happens, Chun’s father may need a nap – not his son is complaining.

“I’m just excited and hoping to see some good results,” Chun said. “I’m glad this is the last one and that it wasn’t earlier.”