Women’s Golf: Wildcats hope to get a swing at the NCAA Championships

Kevin Casey

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For the 2012 spring season, the Northwestern women’s golf team is looking to improve its play and stay competitive. Still, one goal clearly matters most. The hopes of the team can be summed up in just one word: Nationals.

The NCAA Championships eluded NU last year when it fell short of qualifying by just five strokes.

But with a new year and a new team, coach Emily Fletcher is confident in her squad.

“We’ve been working hard, we’re excited about the rest of the spring season,” Fletcher said. “Everybody is working hard and sticking to task, they’re getting better and improving where they can.”

After a strong fall season in which the No. 32 Wildcats recorded three top-10 finishes in four starts, NU has continued to play well in the spring. It placed fifth in the Lady Puerto Rico Classic, and although the Cats had a less-than-impressive 13th-place finish at the Central District Invitational, they are excited about where things are headed.

“We have a lot of great stats and feelings of what we accomplished and what we have yet to accomplish,” senior Alex Lederhausen said. “We can just build on that, keep practicing and look forward to the rest of spring.”

Lederhausen is the most experienced starter on the team, and although her game has struggled at times, she said she is optimistic that she can have a great spring season.

“I feel confident going into the spring,” Lederhausen said. “I have been working really hard this winter and I really hope it’ll pay off.”

Lauren Weaver is another veteran ready to lead the team. The junior is coming off a year in which she set an NU single-season scoring record with a 74.49-stroke average and was named first team All-Big Ten.

Weaver hasn’t played her greatest golf this season, but Fletcher said she expects her to rebound.

“Lauren has struggled a little bit, but she’s certainly a tough competitor,” Fletcher said. “I feel really good about her and Alex. They are the two anchors in our lineup.”

Despite this comfort, the Cats lack experience. With the graduation of players like Rebecca Lederhausen – Alex Lederhausen’s sister – and Kelsey Lindenschmidt, the team is young and raw.

For Fletcher, though, the loss of experienced starters isn’t a big deal.

“It wasn’t anything we looked at as a loss,” Fletcher said. “We actually felt like we were strengthening our squad with two great freshman recruits like Hana Lee and Brittany Mai who came in and got in the lineup right away.”

Along with Lee and Mai, sophomore Devon Brown has made an impact this season, finishing first or second on NU in three events in the fall.

Brown said she feels the support of the veterans has helped their younger counterparts perform.

“Alex and Lauren both bring a good competitive edge to the table, but they’re also great mentors to me and the freshmen,” Brown said. “They’ve taught us a lot this year, and as a result Hana and Brittany have been playing pretty well.”

The team has almost a month off before its next event in late March. To stay fresh, the team will focus on fundamentals and short game play during the break.

This event marks the beginning of the busiest part of the season, which ends with NCAA Regionals and, for the team, the ultimate goal of the NCAA Championships.

“(The NCAA Championships) are our goal,” Fletcher said. “We really do believe that we should accomplish this goal, so there’s no reason to waver from it.”