A return trip to the United States proved a great elixir for the Wildcats’ woes in Puerto Rico. At the very least, the team moved back in the right direction.
Following a disappointing 13th place showing at the Puerto Rico Classic a month ago, Northwestern resumed action in California, finishing 8th at the Goodwin on Sunday.
In a field composed of 10 ranked squads, with No. 46 NU coming in as the lowest among the bunch, the Cats held their own. In Puerto Rico, NU beat one ranked squad and fell to four unranked foes. It was almost the opposite this weekend, with St. Mary’s (Calif.) registering as the only unranked squad to topple the Cats, while No. 43 TCU, No. 33 San Diego State and No. 22 UNLV couldn’t match the Midwest team’s 15-over-par 855 total.
The performance was a solid rebound, and proved that Jack Perry somehow continues to rise.
An All-American last season, the senior began the event setting the course ablaze, with five birdies in his first 11 holes. The aftershocks of Perry’s sizzling 63 in his most recent competitive round were apparently still lurking.
“Shooting 63 was big for me because it showed me that if I’m under par I can keep going under par, which is big for any player that wants to play golf for a living,” Perry said. “A lot of times when you get under par, you start trying to protect it. To be able to keep it going and shoot 63 was big for me. It makes me not nervous to be 2-under.”
Just as quickly, Perry cooled off, going bogey-double bogey in the next two holes and dropping four shots total in his last seven.
Unfazed, the senior built on his opening 69 with consecutive rounds of 68, each laced with five or more birdies, to close. His five-under-par total left him in a tie for fourth in a very strong field and nine shots behind winner Patrick Rodgers, the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world playing on his home course at Stanford.
In the aftermath, Perry was emboldened by the effort.
“I feel like I played well in this tournament,” Perry said. “I got sloppy in places, but I bounced back really well. And making 16 birdies overall was definitely a bonus.”
The rest of the lineup, though, went with a different script.
The No.3-5 players produced better golf than they did in Puerto Rico but hardly put together resounding performances.
Junior Bennett Lavin was consistent in his scores, but all it added up to was a tie for 61st. Redshirt sophomore Scott Smith mustered the same result, filling in for junior regular Matthew Negri because of the results from “Puerto Rico and spring break qualifiers,” coach Pat Goss said.
Sophomore Josh Jamieson at times has flashed great talent — but not so much this week with a dismal tie for 82nd.
Lavin, whose rounds were all around 3-over-par, insisted he was very close to a successful weekend.
“Just a few putts here or there, some sloppy short game and all three of the rounds are at par or under,” Lavin said. “My game was solid all week, I just couldn’t put it together.”
That has been the crux of the issue for the bottom three in the line-up; the talent is there, but the results are lacking. Perry’s ever-reliable play has greatly aided the team’s efforts, as has Andrew Whalen’s resurgence.
For the second time in two spring stroke play events, the sophomore finished second on the team by a significant margin and tied for 24th overall. Perry and the coaches continue to sing his praises.
Goss isn’t naive though. He knows the bottom part of the lineup has a lot more to offer and could seriously boost the team’s prospects with improved play.
“Beyond Jack and Andrew, we need to find three players that are going to step up and help us.” Goss said. “They have to put it together and translate it into scores a little better. We just need these players to compete, get the most out of their rounds and take advantage of some of their good rounds. That will be the key for us elevating to another level.”
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