Men’s Golf: Cats hunt for Big Ten gold

Steven Montero

The story of reigning Big Ten champion David Lipsky is nothing if not compelling.

In his first year at Northwestern, the now-senior didn’t compete in a single tournament. Two years later he claimed the individual Big Ten title. Now, coach Patt Goss said Lipsky is likely to contend for All-American honors.

“The most impressive thing on our team is what David Lipsky’s done,” Goss said. “He’s one of the top players I’ve coached in my 15 seasons, as far as how much he’s improved and the level he’s got himself to.”

NU will look to help replicate Lipsky’s individual success with a collective triumph at the Big Ten Tournament this season. NU already boasts its fair share of résumé fillers: a four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year, two individual Big Ten Champions and a top-35 ranking according to Golf Week/Sagarin rankings. A conference championship is all that remains to establish its Big Ten dominance.

The Cats got an early jump on their goal earlier this month in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., with an overall win at the Big Ten Match plays. After a less-than-stellar Fall run, Goss said the win marked a step in the right direction.

Junior Eric Chun, who is one of the team’s returning Big Ten Champions and who made an appearance at the British Open last summer, said he was having particular issues during game play.

“Last fall I had some good tournaments, but my misses were all the same,” Chun said. “On the driving I had a few shots that went pretty far right on certain types of holes.”

The Cats also assembled a strong showing last spring, but were cut short at regionals. They tied for sixth overall and missed the chance to advance to the NCAA tournament. The loss cut deep: it was a one shot deficit by the last hole of the day.

Nevertheless, the close match showed the team’s strength and Goss said that with more practice the Cats will be contenders this year. NU has been training throughout the winter in indoor facilities to work on different aspects of their individual games, such as weight distribution and distance control.

For Lipsky, the practice has been paying off: he finished in the top-10 in a pair of fall tournaments.

“I know the state of my game and what I can achieve when I play well,” he said. “So it’s definitely something that gives me a lot of confidence going into this spring season.”

The biggest threat to Lipsky and NU is Illinois. Ranked seventh in the nation, the Illini are fierce Big Ten competitors.

“I think we’re definitely capable of beating them, as we saw last week,” Chun said. “But in order for us to do that we can’t focus on them. We have to focus on what we have to do to get better. In golf we’re not really going against them, we’re still playing against the course; we’re still playing against ourselves. So I still think my biggest opponent is Eric Chun in a sense.”

Luckily the team as a whole is stronger this year with the arrival of two “very solid” freshmen, who both competed last fall, Goss said.

Freshman Jack Perry said he is not intimidated to practice with two of the Big Ten Champions. He said they drive him to work harder and perform at a higher level.

Goss also pointed out senior Josh Dupont as a “key” to the team’s success. He said Dupont’s putting is a crucial element in his game and he has seen improvement this year.

“We’re working on our reactions to bad shots as well as being able to take adversity well,” Dupont said. “When things aren’t going the way you want them to, being able to respond to that and have a good attitude and play well even though you might not have your ‘A’ game.”

NU placed 13th out of a 15-team field at the Puerto Rico Classic in Rio Mar, Puerto Rico on Tuesday. Twelve of the teams featured at the tournament rank in the top-45 nationally. But for the Cats, the main goal remains at the end of the season.

“Number one our goal is to win the Big Ten Championship,” said Goss. “Our next goal, and one that we’ve talked about, is that we need to be good enough come regionals, that whether we play great or just play OK, we’re good enough to make it.”

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