Men’s golf: Cats falter at Olympia Fields

Ken Durbin

Chicago was the place to be this past weekend for some of the world’s finest golfers, but it was across town where Northwestern brought its clubs for its second tournament of the season. As the pros descended upon the famed Dubsdread course at Cog Hill on the west side of Chicago, there was an impressive collegiate field congregating on the south side at the Olympia Fields Country Club.

The Wildcats struggled Friday through Sunday in the 54-hole Fighting Illini Invitational, finishing last out of 15-teams competing. The Invitational didn’t pretend to make nice for the Cats as they had to battle nasty Chicago weather, a collection of the best collegiate golf programs in the nation and a difficult Olympia Fields Country Club course that has frustrated even the very best. Olympia Fields was the host to the notoriously hard U.S. Open in 2003, where only four of the PGA pros were able to break par.

The Cats finished the Invitational with a final score of 67-over par, 58 strokes behind Stanford, the leading team. The Cardinal ran away with the tournament, winning by 16 strokes over second place Auburn and Oklahoma State. Stanford shot under par over the first two days of the tournament until a 10-over total on Sunday moved them to 9-over.

Fortunately for the Cats, this will be one of the toughest fields they will face all season. Many of these teams are perennially in the running for the NCAA championships at the end of the year. The competition was strong enough that even back-to-back NCAA champion Augusta State finished tied for 10th at 50-over par.

While NU may not be satisfied with a last place finish, the Cats can at least take solace in their personal improvement. NU shot its best day total on Sunday, a score that was among the top 10 total scores posted on the day.

Stanford golfer Patrick Rodgers won the tournament with an impressive three day total of 206, 4-under par. He was one of only two golfers to finish below par for the tournament. Northwestern’s top individual score came from senior Eric Chun, who carded a score of 14-over (76-77-71). Chun ended up tied for 41st place after an impressive 71 on Sunday which vaulted him 19 places on the leaderboard. He had a very steady day and was at even par until a bogey on the rainy final hole bumped him into the black with a 1-over round. Chun tied with four other golfers including Peter Uihlein from Oklahoma State, who is currently ranked fourth in the world in the amateur rankings.

Senior Sam Chien had the second best finish for the Cats with a 17-over total. A nice stretch of three birdies in five holes after the turn on Sunday helped him to a stellar 33 on the back nine and a overall 2-over 72 on the day. The great final round helped him make a big move up the leaderboard from 67th to 55th. Freshman Matthew Negri started the tournament strongly with a 71 but was unable to carry any momentum into the weekend as he ended with a 82-79.

The Cats will look to carry some momentum from their improvements on Sunday into their next tournament on October 9-10 in La Quinta, California at The Prestige.

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