Stability has been tough to uncover for Northwestern this spring, so you can bet the team will be searching for answers in its final event before Big Ten Championships.
A week after the Kepler Intercollegiate, an event where coach Pat Goss admitted the team “didn’t show anything,” the Wildcats will travel to Indiana for the Boilermaker Invitational. The event takes place Saturday and Sunday, a 54-hole affair featuring seven Big Ten squads, four of which are among the six top-50 teams at present.
NU is one of those top-50 squads, if only just barely. The Cats are now ranked No. 49, down two spots from last week and 12 spots since the last event of the fall season.
It’s been a rocky time for the Cats as the weather has warmed up in Evanston, and the team knows the timetable for improvement has to be accelerated.
Of course, NU could’ve benefited greatly from an efficient performance at the Kepler. Junior Matthew Negri offered some help in the inconsistent Nos. 3-5 section of the lineup with his solid play at No. 3, leading to a tie for 28th. Sophomore Andrew Whalen only solidified his hold on the No. 2 spot with a 13th-place finish, the highest position on the team.
But the tournament also marked a blip on the radar for the ultra-reliable Jack Perry. The senior, who had not placed worse than 15th in his previous seven events, never shot better than 74 in Columbus, Ohio on his way to a tie for 30th.
Despite Negri’s performance, the final three spots in the lineup remain in flux. The junior was actually not even in the starting lineup in the event before the Kepler. Negri and senior John Callahan replaced sophomore Josh Jamieson and junior Bennett Lavin at the Kepler, giving the Cats a third different starting lineup in three spring stroke-play events.
The constant reshuffling has not been without its positives. Along with Negri finding his game for at least one week, this mix-and-match approach has brought Scott Smith’s name to the forefront.
The sophomore did not start once in the fall, but has secured a spot in the last two events. Smith struggled to a tie for 61st at the Goodwin, but put together three solid rounds to tie for 34th last week.
A high finish in Indiana would be nice for the Cats, but getting good, consistent play from all members of the starting five would be exponentially more helpful.
They have one last chance before the Big Ten Championships to prove this lineup can play well top to bottom. If postseason success awaits, such an occurrence is a must.
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