Women’s Golf: Kaitlin Park leads Wildcats to strong showing in Michigan

Josh Walfish, Reporter

In its first tournament of the year, Northwestern picked up where it left off at the end of last season.

The Wildcats finished in fourth place at the Mary Fossum Invitational in East Lansing, Mich., shooting the second-best round of the final day to move up a spot on the leaderboard.

Sophomore Kaitlin Park, last season’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, finished in a tie for second, three shots behind the winner.

“I was a little disappointed with our finish overall, but it’s September and still early,” coach Emily Fletcher said. “We were a little rusty, but we saw a lot of good moments. The girls were in good spirits.”

Park was the Cats’ most consistent player during the 54-hole tournament, shooting a four-over-par 220 over the weekend. Her first round did not produce many fireworks, but three bogeys and two birdies were good enough to be NU’s best round of the morning session. Park double-bogeyed the 18th hole in the second round, breaking her momentum with a score of 74.

However, she responded in the final round after double bogeying the sixth hole when she birdied three of her next five holes to keep the round going, eventually shooting one-over par for the day.

“I saw a maturity in Kaitlin and just a level of comfort,” Fletcher said. “She would tell you she wasn’t at her best ball-striking wise, but good players find ways to score. … She really was a rock for us, being so steady.”

Although no other player matched Park’s consistency, the other four golfers flashed moments of potential in the opening weekend. Junior Hana Lee birdied her first two holes of the tournament and, though she ended the round at three-over par, made three birdies on the front nine. Suchaya Tangkamolprasert’s second round was a model of consistency with 17 pars and a single bogey to shoot a 73, giving the sophomore player’s best mark Saturday afternoon. Sophomore Elizabeth Szokol was six-over through her first seven holes of the tournament, which included two double-bogeys, but responded with four birdies in a seven-hole stretch to regain some momentum.

Freshman Kacie Komoto shot a two-over 74 in the final round, which included two birdies in her final four holes after carding a triple bogey on the par-four 18th hole, her 13th of the day. Komoto shot 15-over in the first two rounds, but Fletcher said Komoto played better than that in her first collegiate tournament. The coach said she was happy with how the freshman regrouped Sunday, especially around the greens, an area she struggled with in her first two rounds on Saturday.

“She had some really good moments out there,” Fletcher said. “She really settled in and got some confidence and settled down on the greens. Most important to me was how she responded. She really responded well (to the triple bogey).”

NU only had five days of practice before heading to East Lansing, Mich., and Fletcher said she tried to get the team competing against one another, playing four rounds of competitive golf against one another, which did not leave much individual practice time. With only a few days to rest before hitting the road for the second tournament of the young season in New Mexico, Fletcher said she will work a lot on the short game, an area the Cats struggled with on the difficult Forest Akers West Golf Course.

“Overall, our ball-striking wasn’t too bad, but we need to be better around the greens and control our misses,” Fletcher said. “Our good golf was pretty good, but our bad golf was just a little too wild.”

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