Men’s Golf: Wildcats head to Louisiana looking to advance to NCAA Championships

Kevin Casey, Reporter

The lady Wildcats took care of business last week at the NCAA Regionals. Now the men have a chance to do just the same.

Northwestern tees off Thursday at The University Club in the 13-team NCAA Baton Rouge Regional and is hoping not to end its season on a sour note. The team stumbled to a sixth-place finish at Big Ten Championships three weeks ago, leaving the Cats with a bad taste heading into the heart of postseason play.

A great performance at Regionals could erase that frustration. The Cats come into the tournament as the No. 6 seed, with the top five finishers qualifying for the NCAA Championships to be contested later this month in Atlanta.

The team is in good position to capitalize on the opportunity to advance; all it needs is its five competitors to show reliable, not necessarily spectacular, form.

“Jack (Perry) and Nick (Losole) obviously need to play well, which they have done consistently this year, and we need the other three guys to really manage their games,” coach Pat Goss said. “If we can just play solid rounds on our days that aren’t great, we’ll be fine.”

Perry has unquestionably been the team’s best and most consistent player this year, posting five top-10s and two victories in his 10 stroke-play starts this season. The junior was named to the All-Big Ten first team last week and also received the Les Bolstad Award for the player with the lowest scoring average among all Big Ten golfers — an honor no NU golfer has earned since Luke Donald in 2001.

Even though the Baton Rouge, La., course is reported to be difficult, Perry said he believes success comes from maintaining the same mental strategy on any track he plays.

“There’s no reason to add any anxiety or any new thought processes from course to course,” Perry said. “It doesn’t matter if the course is 10,000 yards or 5,000 yards, I’m still going to step up on that first tee and believe I am going to play well.”

The other four players cannot exactly lollygag in Louisiana. Perry is the clear No. 1, but, as Goss mentioned, only a total team effort will yield NU the result it wants.

Losole, the only senior among the starting five, must continue to be an anchor in the No. 2 spot. Sophomores Matthew Negri and Bennett Lavin, along with freshman Andrew Whalen, must add to the team’s scoring equation as well.

Every starter but Perry had a round of 78 or higher at Big Ten Championships, and Goss made it clear that such high scores will not fly at Regionals.

“I’m hoping we learned our lesson at Big Tens,” Goss said. “My wish is that our struggle there will prove as a catalyst to really have us be in control of our game and to know how hard we have to fight and work to control our score.”

The goal of the event is for the team to finish in one of the coveted top five spots, but that does not mean the Cats are going in with the mindset just to advance.

“We can’t play just to come in third or fourth just to make it to nationals,” Perry said. “You play to win and to play great. Our good golf is good enough to compete with anyone.”

Such confidence is necessary in an event where the large number of quality teams — nine in the top 50 alone — might otherwise be overwhelming. The NU guys also know the women’s squad has already advanced to NCAA Championships, and that motivates them.

“To see people that you are around every day go out and play as clutch a round as the girls did that last day, it gives the guys some confidence and belief in what they’re doing,” Goss said. “But at the same time they don’t want to be stood up, their egos are male. They want to go out and show that they can compete and have a great finish to their season as well.”