Men’s Golf: Northwestern looks to stay in the red in final tune-up

Kevin Casey

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Fresh off a victory in Bloomington, Ind., this past weekend, Northwestern will head off to Columbus, Ohio, to compete in the Kepler Intercollegiate, the team’s final event before the Big Ten Championships.

The team’s final tune-up will be played Saturday and Sunday at the Ohio State Scarlet Course, but the tournament will be far from easy for the Wildcats. NU will face a difficult 15-team field that includes No. 20 Kent State, No. 40 Indiana and No. 41 SMU. The Cats will also be tested by the tough 7,455 yards, par-71 course, which is more than 600 yards longer than the one the team played in their previous event.

Despite these intimidating factors that lie ahead this weekend, coach Pat Goss is confident that his team can hold its own.

“We want to contend and have an opportunity to win the tournament; that would be the expectation,” Goss said. “This is a better field than the one at Indiana. It’s a field that if we get playing well, we should have a chance at success.”

NU is led by Eric Chun, who has been a consistent force for the team this season. The senior has now recorded seven consecutive sub-70 rounds of golf and moved all the way up to the 35th spot in the Golfstat Cup rankings, a ranking system for college golfers. Chun has recorded two victories and five top-two finishes in his senior season and also holds a 70.25 season stroke average, which is on pace to break Luke Donald’s school record of 70.45, set in 1998-99.

The senior put on an especially strong performance in Bloomington, shooting rounds of 69, 69 and 66 to finish four strokes ahead of the field. The course this week will be far less receptive to red numbers though.

Still, with a different mindset for the tougher Columbus track, Chun is ready for whatever comes his way.

“Last week the course was a litle bit easier and I could make a lot of birdies,” Chun said. “This week though, it’s more about grinding out pars, stayng patient and knowing that it’s hard for everybody.”

Chun is far from the only player on the team to show good form recently though. Sophomore Jack Perry has finished in the top 10 in his last two events and senior Sam Chien placed in the top five in Bloomington.

Chien fought his way to that high finish, using his short game to score when the rest of his game was less than stellar. Goss said he is looking for the rest of the senior’s game to come together this week.

“I want to see improved ball-striking from Sam,” Goss said. “We’ve worked hard already this week on that.”

Junior Nick Losole will be in the lineup again after a 43rd place finish last week, but in the team’s fifth spot will be newcomer Matthew Negri. The freshman will replace fellow freshman Bennett Lavin after posting the first top-20 finish of his career in Bloomington. His tournament included a second-round 65, tying Chun for the lowest single-round score this season.

The team has been much improved from the fall and already has three wins in the young spring season. With one last tournament before the Big Ten Championships, Goss hopes his team takes another step forward.

“From a confidence standpoint it would help to play well,” Goss said. “But I’m most concerned with us making progress toward the Big Ten Championships.”