Men’s Golf: Northwestern stumbles to last-place finish at Olympia Fields

Josh Walfish, Reporter

Northwestern’s struggles at Olympia Fields Country Club continued this weekend at the Fighting Illini Invitational.

The Wildcats battled adversity early with difficult weather conditions in Olympia Fields, Ill. Despite improving each round, NU was unable to vault out of the cellar and finished last out of 15 teams.

“We played very poorly,” coach Pat Goss said. “Other than (junior Matthew) Negri’s round today, there wasn’t really much good. To try and play two tournaments before school started, it doesn’t give us much preparation. We only had five days of practice this week, so we were really dependent on how the players were playing at end of the summer.”

NU has historically struggled in Olympia Fields, finishing in the bottom third in five of the previous six years. The Cats finished sixth last year on the back of then-senior Nick Losole’s second-place finish, but nobody on this year’s squad played consistently enough to lead the team.

Sophomore Josh Jamieson dominated in the first round after shooting a four-over-par 74, but he shot a 79 and 78 to finish the tournament in a tie for 66th. Negri bounced back from an opening-round 78 to shoot 74 and 70 in the final two rounds. The junior was the only golfer to shoot par or better and finished as the Cats’ top performer, tied for 37th.

The tournament marked heralded freshman Matt Fitzpatrick’s debut in purple and white. The Englishman scored a par on his first eight holes but bogeyed six of his final 10 holes to shoot a 76. The second round was even more chaotic for Fitzpatrick, who had four bogeys and three birdies on his front nine before limping to a 75.

Goss said he is not too concerned with Fitzpatrick’s play, considering the freshman has flown across the world this summer. He landed in Evanston on Monday after playing in the Walker Cup in Southampton, N.Y.

Jack Perry led the Big Ten last year with a 71.61 scoring average. He began the tournament with a nine-over-par 79 but appeared more comfortable in the second round, shooting a 75. However, he struggled on his first nine holes of the final round with three pars, five bogeys and a double, finishing with an 82 and a tie for last place.

Goss said Perry has been battling a finger injury, although he said he was not sure how much that really affected the senior’s performance. The coach said the Cats will only go as far as Perry leads them this season.

“It’s going to be impossible for us to compete if Jack Perry can’t beat a player,” Goss said. “He’s struggling under the pressure he’s placing on himself after last season. He has to manage the expectations in more a positive manner.”

On the bright side for the Cats, they did not drop many early shots at the tournament. NU only had four double-bogeys or worse in the first two rounds but put up eight in the final round.

“We just bogeyed the place to death,” Goss said. “The par-5s were a disaster for us this week. It’s one of those places (that) if you get off to a slow start, there’s not many birdie opportunities unless you’re playing well.”

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