Women’s Golf: Strong closing kick propels Wildcats to NCAA Championships

Northwestern women’s golf team combined to shoot 4-under par in the final round Saturday to advance to the NCAA Championships. It is the second time in program history, the Wildcats have made it to the championship.

Source: Northwestern Athletics

Northwestern women’s golf team combined to shoot 4-under par in the final round Saturday to advance to the NCAA Championships. It is the second time in program history, the Wildcats have made it to the championship.

Kevin Casey, Reporter

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In a field packed with top-tier squads, Northwestern needed a stellar week of play to keep its season alive.

And that is exactly what happened.

The Wildcats advanced to the NCAA Championships for the second time in school history Saturday, posting a sixth-place finish at an NCAA East Regional in Auburn, Ala., where the top eight teams moved on to the next stage.

In Emily Fletcher’s six-year tenure, this will be the team’s first trip to Nationals, an accomplishment for which the coach has long yearned.

“For our program, it’s what we’ve set our sight on in our recruiting and with our current players who are here now,” Fletcher said. “Things just fell together this last month and not without a lot of hard work.”

The happy result was not exactly a foregone conclusion, though. NU was tied for eighth place after the first round and stumbled down to 10th during the next day’s play. With 18 holes left and needing to jump two top-50 teams, the Cats were not exactly in dire straits, but they still had to produce a valiant final-round charge to move on.

“We played OK those first couple of days, but we hadn’t had our really good round yet,” Fletcher said. “We felt we still had that in us to go out there Saturday and have our best round of the tournament. We thought if we did that, we would have a good opportunity.”

And did that hopeful prediction come to fruition. The team came out firing on the final 18, posting a 4-under-par final-round score, tied for the best of the day, and passed No. 42 Auburn, No. 31 Tennessee, No. 11 North Carolina and No. 8 UCLA in the process.

The epic finish not only secured the Cats a spot in the top eight teams, but also did so with insurance. The closing charge was precipitated by the team’s internal compatibility.

“The team is so confident in everyone right now, and that’s one of the things we saw with this group the last couple of weeks at Big Tens and here this week,” Fletcher said. “They really do believe in each other and their games.”

The performance, while gutsy, was also unconventional. The team’s two All-Big Ten First Team selections, freshman Kaitlin Park and sophomore Hana Lee, actually produced the team’s two worst finishes for the week, and senior Lauren Weaver finished in the middle of the five teammates.

It was the play of freshmen Suchaya Tangkamolprasert and Elizabeth Szokol that carried the squad. Tangkamolprasert fired two sub-par rounds and finished 1-under-par for the tournament, a score that garnered the newcomer the top finish among her teammates, a tie for 15th.

“I was very excited and nervous at the same time,” she said. “I was just sticking with the gameplan the coaches planned for us and I just did what I had to do.”

As for Szokol, a bogey-free final-day 68, the best round of any of the 126 players over the final 18 holes, vaulted her more than 30 spots on the leader board and was the catalyst for the team’s heroics on the final day.

It was a banner day for the freshman.

“I was very happy, it was my lowest round of the year at a time when it really mattered in the last round,” Szokol said. “It was great to see everyone was playing well and that we made it to NCAA Championships.”

The Cats’ season is still alive as the team heads to Athens, Ga., later this month to compete in the NCAA Championships.

Fletcher said she was proud her team got the job done, especially at a time when one of her most important four-year commitments is about to make her exit.

“We really wanted to get this done under Lauren Weaver’s tenure, and we really hadn’t done it,” Fletcher said. “Her teammates were bound and determined to try to get four more rounds out of her college career and not let her go away. They were extremely motivated to get this done for Lauren.”

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