Women’s Golf: Wildcats searching for clarity in Columbus

Kevin Casey, Reporter

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After taking nearly three weeks off from tournament play, Northwestern is not easing itself back into competition. Actually, quite the contrary.

The Wildcats will first travel this weekend to Columbus, Ohio, to play in the Lady Buckeye Invitational, and less than a week later, the team will embark on a journey to French Lick, Ind., to compete in the Big Ten Championships.

Before the Cats seek their elusive first Big Ten title, they will try to get acclimated to the conditions in the Midwest. Coach Emily Fletcher said she scheduled an event in the region before the Big Ten Championships to prepare her players for what they may encounter in French Lick.

“It’s helpful to compete in Big Ten weather before we actually go to the Big Ten Championships,” Fletcher said. “The golf course for the Lady Buckeye is a great test, but it’s also a great opportunity for us to compete in inclement weather that we very well may face as well at French Lick.”

Still, Fletcher isn’t looking past the Lady Buckeye. In a way, the event is a preview of the Big Ten Championships as nine of the 12 conference teams will tee it up on the Scarlet Course starting Saturday. The No. 30 Wildcats will have to face off against four other teams ranked in the top 50, including two who are ranked higher than NU: No. 27 Michigan State and No. 14 Purdue.

It will be a stern test, and Fletcher has a clear objective in her mind.

“The Lady Buckeye is a good event,” Fletcher said. “It’s an opportunity for us to go win the golf tournament.”

For that to happen, a few things must fall into place. The Cats will need Kaitlin Park and Hana Lee to continue playing well. Despite being a freshman, Park has played like a veteran of late, finishing first among her teammates twice in her last three events and posting a pair of top-10s in the process.

Lee has not been far behind. The sophomore finished in the top-12 on the leaderboard in her last two events, a resurgence keyed by solid ball-striking. However, Lee is working on other parts of her game to prepare for the Lady Buckeye, and she has honed in on the mindset she must take to have success in the event.

“I’ve been sharpening up my short-game especially because it’s pretty critical over at the Ohio State course,” Lee said. “In order to play well there, I just need to stay patient and only attack the course when I have to.”

Lauren Weaver’s play will also go a long way in determining NU’s fate. The senior has struggled for much of the season but has slowly worked her game back up this spring. In a three-round qualifier within the team for the Lady Buckeye, Weaver finished second, just one stroke behind Park.

The senior is confident that she will produce a strong performance this weekend.

“My game is in very good shape, my drives are going straight, I’m hitting a lot of greens and generally playing really well,” Weaver said. “I’m excited to do well for our team in Columbus. I should be ready to go.”

The Lady Buckeye will be played in a 6-count-4 format. High scores from some of the players plagued NU in its last tournament, putting extra onus on the top few to keep up their play.
At the Lady Buckeye, Fletcher hopes to see more of a team effort materialize.

“My goal is for all six players to be playing well enough so that we’re wondering what score we’re going to throw out rather than thinking someone is already seven, eight over par, their score is probably not going to count,” Fletcher said. “I want everybody having their score close to counting and everybody playing their very best.”