Women’s Golf: Northwestern finishes 8th, advances to NCAA Championships


Daily file photo by Brian Lee

Sophomore Suchaya Tangkamolprasert finished tied for 10th at the NCAA Regionals in Cle Elum, Wash., last weekend, Northwestern’s best individual placing. The Wildcats’ eighth-place finish as a team was good enough to qualify them for the NCAA Championships on May 20.

Kevin Casey, Assistant Sports Editor

As the saying goes, in golf there are no pictures on the scorecard. And in the college postseason, all that matters is that you advance.

The Wildcats nearly melted down over a harrowing final four holes at the NCAA West Regional on Saturday, but limited the bleeding just enough to finish the event in eighth place and secure the last spot for NCAA Championships.

Northwestern, the 7th-seed for the 24-team regional at the Tumble Creek Golf Club in Washington, finished seven shots clear of the dreaded ninth place, beating out higher ranked foes in Wake Forest and Clemson.

But it was far from NU’s best performance of the season. Luckily the Cats didn’t need their best stuff to advance, and coach Emily Fletcher chose to view that in a positive light.

“To see us go to Regionals and have one good day but really not be at our best just shows the caliber of players that we have,” Fletcher said. “It shows the progress the players have made that they are able to advance through a regional without necessarily being at their best.”

For the second straight year, NU followed a roundabout path in moving on to nationals. This time a poor first round Thursday put the team in trouble. Fletcher pointed to unforced errors that prevented her players from taking advantage of pristine conditions and left the team tied for 10th after 18 holes.

On Friday, in much worse conditions, the team actually posted a score six shots lower than their previous round. For the day it was the fifth-best score among the 24 squads and vaulted NU up to fifth on the leaderboard.

It was a significant cushion for the Cats and one that the team needed after playing the last five holes Saturday in a collective 15 over par.

The quick turnaround was impressive even for a team that has become honed in the art of resiliency.

“I was proud of what our kids did on that second day after playing poorly that first day in ideal conditions,” Fletcher said. “We made some great pars and we got things going early. We have a saying ‘Play to play great.’ It means to go out there and play without fear and not be afraid that you’re going to make mistakes, and we were able to do that on the second day.”

The depth of the Cats’ starting lineup played prominently in the team’s season continuing. Junior Hana Lee and sophomore Kaitlin Park, both First Team All-Big Ten selections, never shot 75 or better and finished tied for 44th and and tied for 58th respectively. But others stepped up.

Sophomore Elizabeth Szokol’s second-round 72 afforded her a tie for 31st, and Suchaya Tangkamolprasert ensured the team’s success.

The sophomore opened in 71, enough to be in the top 10, and hung right there, with subsequent scores of 73 and 78 earning her a tie for 10th.

Tangkamolprasert actually led the team in scoring at last year’s regionals as well, a trend that points to the sophomore’s rise to the occasion in big-time events.

This exciting development, though, is steeped in doing more of the same.

“I just played my style this week,” the sophomore said. “The conditions out there were hard, but I just stuck to my game plan and doing what I was supposed to do and everything worked out really well.”

The Cats will commence the 72-hole NCAA Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 20 and will be looking to top their 15th-place showing from last year.

NU could certainly stand to improve much from this week’s work, especially on short game shots as Tangkamolprasert noted.

The players aren’t just happy to be there at nationals. With the team reaching back-to-back NCAA Championships for the first time ever, and this just the third appearance in the Championship for NU, nobody is ignorant of how historic this play is.

“It’s significant for our program and for our team,” Fletcher said. “We’re accomplishing the things we set out to do and that will be a huge next step in our program to continue to do that.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @KevinCasey19