Women’s Golf: Northwestern nearly slays USC in California

Kevin Casey, Assistant Sports Editor

As the season has progressed for Northwestern, it appears more and more likely that the 14th place showing at the Bryan National Collegiate will serve as a serious outlier.

Northwestern traveled to California in the two days following the Masters and nearly struck gold. The No. 20 Wildcats finished third in the 15-team Silverado Showdown, a tournament consisting of nine top-50 teams.

The performance may have marked a high point in NU’s 54-hole stroke play tournaments of the spring. Sure, NU actually won its event in Miami, but the field assembled there was not nearly as difficult. And even if the Cats finished third in Puerto Rico with just as many ranked teams present, that affair did not include the sport’s royalty.

NU battled No. 1 USC down the stretch for second position, ultimately falling two strokes shy of defeating the powerhouse Trojans. In the process, though, the Cats beat six top-50 teams, including No. 9 Arizona.

For coach Emily Fletcher, this was a tournament that was almost perfect.

“We were close to being really, really good this week,” Fletcher said. “Struggled just a little bit around the greens and putting but I’m pleased we’re competing on a national level with the best teams in the country and coming out on top of USC two out of three rounds. We’re building momentum for sure.”

NU was in second place after the first round and actually climbed into the lead midway through the second round before falling to fourth. NU jumped Oregon State on the final day.

The event marked the return of Elizabeth Szokol, who struggled mightily in her previous 54-hole event with a tie for 76th. Instead of two rounds in the 80s this time, the sophomore went 74-75-72 on her way to a tie for 16th.

Szokol felt her improvement was inevitable as long as she was patient.

“We had some good practice over spring break, and it took time to let that set in,” Szokol said. “We have good facilities at home, which helped.”

Szokol was far from the only story, or the only NU competitor, who played solid golf. In fact, this was a tournament where the Cats’ supreme depth shone through. All five players finished in the top 30, within five shots of one another, with sophomore Kaitlin Park leading the way in a tie for 13th.

When NU’s strength, its depth, is really clicking, this is a dangerous team. One tweak could bring a whole new level of play, though.

“This last tournament, we were all pretty consistent,” freshman Kacie Komoto said. “When one of us can go really low and the rest of us can maintain a really even score, we can sneak up on people who will underestimate us.”

And you don’t have to remind this team that Big Ten Championships are a little over a week away. They’re liking their current play and are ready to defend their title.

“Everyone is coming in with their best form of the spring which is what we’re going to need at Big Ten Championships,” Fletcher said. “It’s going to be incredibly competitive, and we’re going to need to be at our best.”

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