Northwestern showcased its muscles to the rest of the collegiate golf world this weekend.
The Wildcats took home the team title at the Rod Myers Invitational behind the efforts of freshman Matt Fitzpatrick and senior Jack Perry, who shared the individual title at 9-under par. It was the first time in program history that two NU players shared individual medalist honors.
“(Saturday) we had a really strong day led by the play of Matt and Jack,” coach Pat Goss said. “We didn’t have anybody that really got going (Sunday), but we did some good things to close it out with only three shots to spare.”
Fitzpatrick lit up The Duke Golf Club on Saturday, posting rounds of 67 and 68 on the opening day to take a two-stroke lead into the final 18 holes on Sunday. His success was in large part because he was hitting greens in regulation and giving himself chances at birdie. He had 10 birdies and only a single bogey in the first 36 holes.
However, Fitzpatrick failed to get going Sunday as he washed out two birdies on either side of the turn with a penalty for moving his ball while attempting to move a loose impediment, leading to a double bogey on the 14th hole. Despite finishing at even par on the day, the freshman did earn his first win as a collegiate golfer.
“It’s nice to have that first win,” Fitzpatrick said. “I played solidly all week, but if I’m honest, I certainly didn’t have my A game all week. It was nice to get the win without hitting the ball the way I wanted to.”
Perry’s tournament was far more spectacular, in both good and bad ways. Goss said Perry’s best from the weekend was better than Fitzpatrick’s, but he also made bigger mistakes than the freshman.
Perry got off to a slow start Saturday, finishing the morning 18 holes at just 1-under par. However, he got hot in the afternoon, carding six birdies to charge into second place after beginning the round in a tie for 10th. In Sunday’s final round, Perry fought back to tie Fitzpatrick multiple times and actually held a one-stroke lead after 14 holes, but a bogey on the 15th ensured the two would split the trophy.
“They’re both pushing each other on, that’s for sure,” Goss said. “The rivalry between the two of them has been beneficial for both guys. They want each other to do well, but they want to do better than the other.”
The team’s victory was almost never in doubt as it led after each of the tournament’s three rounds. The Cats led by 12 strokes heading into Sunday, but the tough pin placements stymied NU’s momentum, and Baylor charged up the leaderboard to ultimately fall three shots short.
NU’s other three players showed flashes of good play, but none of them could put together three solid rounds for the tournament. Junior Matthew Negri started off strong with a 2-under 70 Saturday morning, which helped him finish in a tie for 16th despite shooting 74 and 75 in the final two rounds. Junior Bennett Lavin shot an even-par 72 Saturday afternoon but struggled in the other two rounds with seven bogeys and three double-bogeys. Sophomore Josh Jamieson never got any positive momentum going Saturday, with rounds of 6- and 7-over par, but he did shoot a 74 Sunday to be the third-best NU player on the final 18 holes.
The Cats now have some time to breathe before rounding out their fall schedule at the Gifford Intercollegiate on Nov. 4-5. Goss said he will use the data he has collected from the first four tournaments to try to set up individualized plans for each of his golfers in preparation for the final fall tournament and subsequent break from competition.
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