Heading into the final round of the Big Ten Championships, Northwestern was tied for sixth place with Indiana. So when the Wildcats shrugged off the Hoosiers and overtook Wisconsin and Minnesota to claim fourth place halfway through the round, things looked good for NU. The 39th-ranked Cats just had to match their rivals on the final nine holes.
Except their task was harder than that. Unlike its three competitors for fourth, NU teed off on the tenth hole. And the back nine in the University Ridge Golf Course in Verona, Wisc. is harder than the front nine.
“We were really playing the easier nine first, so we thought it would be a good opportunity for the girls to get off to a good start, and hopefully it would carry over,” coach Emily Fletcher said. “We hoped it would get warmer by the time we got to the harder nine but it really didn’t and the wind picked up more.”
NU finished the tournament in sixth place, behind No. 60 Wisconsin and No. 54 Indiana. No. 7 Purdue was crowned champion for the third year running.
Sophomore Kylie Fuller finished atop NU’s scoreboard and tied for 16th place with a 13-over 301 score. Fuller has led the team three times in NU’s last five tournaments.
“Kylie’s really coming into her own right now,” Fletcher said. “She’s playing well, striking the ball well and getting a lot of confidence to her putting. She’s been a little bit erratic-her bad rounds have been really bad and her good rounds have been good. We’ve got to find a way when we’re having a little bit of an off day, we need her to hang in there and in her bad day be a 75, 76 instead of being an 80.”
Though Fuller hit three scores in the high 70s-two 77s and a 78-she recorded a career-best 3-under 69 that highlighted the tournament for the Cats.
“It was really simple,” Fuller said. “I just didn’t make any big mistakes, I hit a lot of greens and made a lot of putts and I had five birdies and two bogies in the round.”
Junior Kelsey Lindenschmidt finished two strokes behind Fuller for 21st place, while sophomore Alex Lederhausen and junior Rebecca Lederhausen-who took the tournament’s Sportsmanship Award for NU-tied for third on the team and 22nd overall. Freshmen Lauren Weaver and Anne Ormson finished fifth and sixth.
“I didn’t have expectations but a top ten finish would have been ideal,” Rebecca Lederhausen said. “It went okay. I had two good rounds and two not-as-good rounds.”
Weaver was named to the second team All-Big Ten squad in recognition of her strong campaign. The newcomer has led the Cats’ scoring in five tournaments this season, and has the team’s lowest scoring average. She is the seventh golfer in program history to earn All-Big Ten honors.
“That shows how well she’s played all year round,” Fletcher said. “She’s struggled with here last couple of tournaments but she’s been such a huge contributor all year round.”On Monday, the Cats were awarded a berth in the NCAA Central Regionals for the first time since 2007. The 24-team field includes Big Ten rivals Purdue, Michigan State and Indiana.
“We’re definitely the third or fourth best team in the Big Ten and we didn’t play to that potential this week,” Fletcher said. “But with that in mind, I look forward to Regionals.”