Men’s Golf: Northwestern faces favorable field in California


Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Josh Jamieson walks down the fairway. The junior has developed a newfound consistency this season, and it has risen his status in the starting lineup.

Kevin Casey, Sports Editor

Men’s Golf

For the Wildcats, winter practice is paramount but success isn’t expected overnight. A slow build in progress is preferred.

“We really preach to our guys that their job is to show up every day and get 1 percent better,” coach David Inglis said. “And if you make those incremental improvements day after day, after a while they add up to a big outcome.”

Northwestern will test those bit-by-bit betterments Monday and Tuesday in its spring stroke-play season opener at the 54-hole Jones Invitational at Valencia Country Club in California.

Familiarity will not be the Cats’ friend out west, as Inglis noted that pretty much all he knew about the course was its hosting of a PGA Tour event in 1998.

But from what the team can gather from afar, Valencia bodes well for NU’s games.

“I’ve heard it’s a pretty tight course with plenty of trees and it’s a short layout,” junior Josh Jamieson said. “I like both of those things, so I’m looking forward to it. They’ve got good greens too, and that’s good for us with having Pat (Goss) as a short-game coach.”

If everything goes the Cats’ way, they might have an outside shot at a win to open the spring stroke-play slate. NU is currently ranked 57th, an unassuming mark in general tournament play but a noticeable one in this particular event.

The field in Valencia, California, only contains three teams placed higher than NU. One of those is No. 4 Southern California, but the other two are No. 22 Kennesaw State and No. 50 Winthrop.

In addition to that and the potential course fit, NU found a bit of a 1-2 punch in the fall in freshman phenom Dylan Wu and Jamieson.

Neither Wu’s quick rise to No. 1 nor Jamieson’s emergence as a bona fide No. 2 could be considered too surprising, but the latter was far from inevitable.

Jamieson said he would be looking for his consistency from the fall to carry over into the spring, and it seems like a wise choice of focus.

Last season, the junior had the second-worst stroke average on the team, courtesy of 13 of his 24 rounds being above 75. This fall, Jamieson produced only one such score in 11 rounds, and consequently finished first or second on the team in three of four events.

If NU stands a chance at a high finish this week, the new Jamieson needs to be present. Luckily, he felt his game that was off-kilter just a week ago is back on track.

“Wedge play and ball-striking with the short irons and putting inside 10 feet was what I needed to work on,” Jamieson said. “I didn’t feel too good with my game last week, but I’ve done a little bit of work with Pat and I feel a lot better about it now.”

But the back end of the lineup has been far more meddlesome in recent times, and that is where a fix can give the Cats the most prosperity.

In Valencia, Charles Wang and Sam Triplett will man the No. 4 and 5 positions. With senior Bennett Lavin at the No. 3, this gives the Cats the same lineup they employed in the second event of the fall.

Wang and Triplett are both freshmen, giving three first-year players a starting role among the five this week.

But Inglis had his reasoning for picking youth over veterans in the final two spots.

He saw Wang as a potential sleeper who could contribute heavily in the spring, and Triplett as a fast riser from his work indoors.

“Sam’s probably made the most improvement of any guy on the team over the break,” Inglis said. “I’ve been really impressed with the work he’s put in this winter.”

Moving the game from the practice grounds to competition, of course, is no easy feat. Triplett said driving and avoiding mental mistakes would be the keys for him.

For now, potential is thick at every spot in the lineup, with the major question of whether it will coalesce.

At Valencia, fans will get a glimpse of what may be key pieces of NU’s future lineup, and the trio of freshmen are prepared to showcase a brighter tomorrow.

“We want to go out there and play to the best of our abilities and that we have a lot of potential the next few years,” Triplett said. “I guess we have something to prove to the older guys on the team, and I think that drives us to be better.”

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