Men’s Golf: Northwestern undaunted by low seeding at NCAA Regionals

Kevin Casey

Northwestern will make its fourth consecutive NCAA Regionals appearance Thursday, and if recent history is any indication, the team will come ready to play.

The Wildcats will head off to The Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Ky., as a No. 9 seed in a 14-team field that includes eight teams ranked in the top 50.

In order to advance to the NCAA National Championships which will be played at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., NU faces the daunting task of finishing in the top-five this week against a stellar field, but it’s not something the team hasn’t done before.

As the same seed at the regionals in 2009, NU advanced to nationals with a tie for fourth place, and after a fierce final round charge at last year’s NCAA Regional, the 10th-seeded Cats finished third and booked yet another trip to team collegiate golf’s most important event. Coach Pat Goss said the lower seed doesn’t reflect the team’s spring season.

“The seeding factors in the fall,” Goss said. “But if you look at our spring play, we’re a lot better than what our seed reflects.”

Indeed, NU has played some steady golf this spring, winning three events and finishing inside the top-four in two others. The surging Wildcats will also bring their games to a course that Goss sees as advantageous to his team.

“It’s quite the difficult course, and it’s a good course for us,” Goss said. “The course simulates a lot of what we do at home and is definitely a place where we can be successful.”

Eric Chun has certainly been the team’s top player this spring. The senior has won twice during spring season and has yet to finish outside the top-10 in five stroke-play events.

Chun has praised his short game in his victories and seen it as the weak link in his poorer finishes, and this week in Kentucky, he sees it no differently.

“You have to be accurate with your approach shots this week,” Chun said. “The greens are very fast and very sloped, so it will be tough to get the ball up and down.”

Sam Chien has been an important veteran on the team as well. After a slow start to the spring, the senior has put together finishes of fifth, 13th and second to end his regular season.

Chien is confident he can compete even against the difficult lineup in his third NCAA regional.

“I feel really good about my game,” Chien said. “It’s going to be a tough field and a tough golf course, but I have to have the mindset that I will go out there and play my best.”

Goss said he is appreciative of this confidence and steady play from his two experienced seniors, but he also said he wants to see a pair of younger, more inconsistent players step up.

Sophomore Jack Perry and junior Nick Losole have a combined four top-10s in the spring, and just two other top-20 finishes. The play of these two may be the make-or-break point for the team.

“Jack Perry and Nick Losole are very important for us,” Goss said. “Their good golf is good enough to help out the team a lot, but their bad golf is not managed as well as it should.”

NU will be in pursuit of its eighth NCAA National Championships appearance in Goss’ 16-year tenure, and it has the components to do it.

Chun said he understands the excitement but said staying in the moment will be the key this week.

“We just have to be smart and grind out every shot,” Chun said. “We can’t assume that a certain score will make it by, so we just have to focus on every shot to the end.”

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