Golf: Northwestern men’s and women’s squads inconsistent in return to tournament play

Kevin Casey, Reporter

Despite a week of relaxation on courses such as Cypress Point and Pebble Beach in California, the male Wildcats found matters anything but easy when they returned to tournament play.

NU struggled from the get-go in the U.S. Intercollegiate on March 28-30, finishing the first day of the 17-team event in a tie for 10th place.

In a tough spot though, the team dug in. On day two, NU moved up to a tie for ninth and the charge continued over the final 18 holes, as the Cats placed solo seventh in a field that contained three of the top 12 teams in the nation. 

Coach Pat Goss said he was impressed by his team’s strong closing play but still found a need for improvement.

“We finally played better on the final day, which was good,” Goss said.”But it exposed our weakness which is when the conditions are really good and the course isn’t too tough, we just don’t make enough birdies.”

After a pair of tournaments where the underclassmen took charge, junior Jack Perry and senior Nick Losole returned to their roles as team leaders.

Perry paced NU’s efforts with rounds of 71, 69 and 69, good enough for a tie for ninth. Losole started slow at 74-72 but produced a strong final kick with a last-day 68.

Perry’s success came from a mindset thoroughly U.S. Open-esque.

“I’m really good at getting rounds back after I kind of mess it up in the beginning,” Perry said. “I had a little fake game, saying, ‘All right, I’m going to play match play with par today, and I’m going to beat it.'”

The high scores on ripe scoring conditions still trouble the coach, who said the Cats will focus on the short game to help them take advantage of favorable conditions.

“Again, I was just disappointed in our scoring on accessible parts of the golf course,” Goss said. “We need to improve our perspective toward scoring, that means our wedge play and our putting especially, and we’ll go home and work on those things.”

NU’s female counterparts secured their second consecutive sixth place finish Tuesday and did so against a field filled with talented squads at the top.

More than half of the 15 teams that assembled for The Farms Invitational were ranked in the top 50 in the country, including No. 29 NU. 

The event brought good vibes for the Cats, as the team started strong with a fifth place showing after the first day and only dropped one spot by the tournament’s conclusion, beating No. 22 Texas A&M and No. 37 California in the process.

Coach Emily Fletcher said she was pleased with the way the team performed.

“I felt pretty good about the way we played,” Fletcher said. “We played especially well in tough conditions on the first day and overall we made great progress this week.”

Youth continued to headline NU’s efforts this week.

Sophomore Hana Lee held the first-round lead after an opening 70  and nearly registered her fifth top 10 of the season, instead finishing tied for 12th.  Kaitlin Park, an even younger counterpart, did better. The freshman spent most of the final round Tuesday in the runner-up position, only to play her last four holes in five over par.

Park still secured a tie for eighth and said she felt that being near the top of the pack will serve her well.

“It was a good experience to be so close to the lead,” Park said. “I learned that I have to stay focused in the moment and not think too much about the pressure of being near the top.”