No. 17 Northwestern fell four spots in the final day of the inaugural Annika Intercollegiate to finish seventh of 12 teams.
“It really wasn’t that bad,” coach Emily Fletcher said. “We just didn’t make the putts that we made the first couple of days.”
The Wildcats started strong in the event, placing third after each of the first two days. In the opening round Sunday, they tied Stanford with a score of 2-under 286, behind only South Carolina and Arizona.
They did even better Monday in round two. Although they carded a 1-over 289, their score was the second best of the day because of rough conditions. Juniors Suchaya Tangkamolprasert and Katilin Park were each part of a seven-way tie for fourth place at 2-under par.
“We played very well,” Fletcher said. “We made a lot of birdies in the first round and fought hard in the second round.”
But the success didn’t last. On the last day, NU shot an 8-over 296. That’s 14 shots behind South Carolina’s 6-under 282 for the round.
The Cats’ collapse led to a tumble down the standings, dropping four spots to place seventh place. Their final score was a 7-over 871, compared with South Carolina’s winning 10-under 854.
“We struggled on the greens today (Tuesday),” Fletcher said. “We struggled with our putting. It’s nothing to get too worried about. Sometimes that happens, and you learn from it and move on.”
Park and Tangkamolprasert still led the Cats at one and two-over par, respectively. But the seven-way tie for fourth place was long gone, as they tied for 18th and 22nd overall.
Still, the outlook for the team this year is as high as it’s ever been.
The Cats are coming off back-to-back 15th-place finishes at the NCAA Championships in 2013 and 2014, their first two appearances at the nation’s top tournament since 2000.
Additionally, NU cruised through its opening tournament, the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational, finishing eight shots better than the runner up.
In this weekend’s tournament, NU faced off against the top teams in the country. Ten of the 12 teams playing qualified for last year’s NCAA Championships, each finishing in the top 18 in the country.
All of the Cats’ key pieces from last season are back. Senior Hana Lee and Park were First-Team All-Big Ten selections while sophomore Kacie Komoto made the Second-Team All-Big Ten. Lee was the first All-American in the school’s history, and Park was the 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
On top of that, Tangkamolprasert returns too, as does NU’s most important asset: coach Fletcher. Fletcher has built the program into a contender in her seven years with the team, even winning a Big Ten title in 2013.
Add to that mix freshmen Sarah Cho and Hannah Kim, and this might be the best NU team yet. Cho was the No. 4 recruit in the country and first in California, according to Junior Golf Scoreboard, while Kim placed ninth nationally and third in California on the same list.
“They’ve been great additions, and they’re settling in really, really well,” Fletcher said. “They’re both from Southern California like a lot of our team, so most of our players have known them over the years.”
“I’ve been really, really pleased with Hannah Kim and her play these first two events for us,” she added. “Sarah Cho is a very accomplished player, and there’s a good chance she’ll start to contribute and be a big part of our success.”
The Cats are back in action Oct. 6 at the Windy City Collegiate Classic in Wilmette.
“The goal is just to continue to improve and make progress,” Fletcher said. “We’re going to be a better team with each passing month, with each passing event, and when we get to the springtime, we’ll be playing our best.”
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