Walfish: Give women’s golf some love, Wildcats fans

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Josh Walfish, Sports Editor

Emily Fletcher could probably walk around campus freely without causing a hubbub or getting much attention.

That seems odd for a coach who’s been named the Big Ten Coach of the Year two of the past three years. It seems strange that a coach who has guided Northwestern to four consecutive postseason appearances would not be recognized on campus. Yet that is the life of the 2013 Big Ten Coach of the Year, the same woman who just led the Wildcats to a share of their first Big Ten title in program history.

Last year, I wrote about giving the men’s golf team some credit for their success, and this season I go back to handing out the love to our golf teams, this time to the ladies.

Winning a Big Ten championship is clearly a huge step forward for this program, but this year’s team showed a certain je ne sais quoi. The Cats had the coach of the year, freshman of the year and two first team All-Big Ten honorees, all positive signs for a program on the rise. The freshmen got better as the season progressed and became major contributors by the end of the season, another good thing for NU. However, most importantly, four of the five best scorers on the team are underclassmen. The only exception is senior Lauren Weaver.

So now let’s introduce two of these mysterious ladies who are tearing up golf courses from tee to green.

We begin at the top with Kaitlin Park, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and first team All-Big Ten honoree. She was the top recruit from California last year and ranked the seventh-best recruit in the country by Junior Golf Scoreboard. On the course, Park competed in 10 events and finished in the top 10 four times. She shot par or better six times and was NU’s best golfer at three events.

Next up is the other All-Big Ten first teamer, sophomore Hana Lee. She was NU’s most consistent player, finishing in the top 20 seven times in nine tournaments and placing in the top 10 five times. Lee held the first-round lead at the Big Ten Championship after opening with a 4-under par 68. The sophomore will be the leader of this team for the next two seasons and could compete for a Big Ten individual title along with Park in the next couple of years.

Those are only two of the major players for next season, but why worry about next season when the postseason beckons? The Cats got shafted by being named a 10-seed in the East Regional, six lines behind co-Big Ten champ Purdue, which is a 4-seed in the West Regional. Only the top eight will advance out of each regional, so the Cats will need to beat out two teams seeded ahead of them. To make things more difficult, NU will be joined by 10 other conference champions, far more than any other regional. The Central Regional only has two conference champions in the top-10 seeds, so clearly there was room for the Cats closer to home.

Regardless of which golf course the Cats tee it up on, NU will be a contender. It’s just a shame more people don’t know about these champions.

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