Women’s Golf: Wildcats battle through challenging opponents, adverse course


Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Sarah Cho eyes an angle for her putt. The freshman aided Northwestern’s efforts at the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic.

Kevin Casey, Reporter


Northwestern fought tough conditions and an even tougher field at the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic, ultimately battling to a fourth-place finish at the 12-team affair Sunday.

“It was a good experience,” coach Emily Fletcher said. “It was a bit of a struggle, but it was a struggle for everybody out there. We definitely saw some good stuff.”

Played in Athens, Georgia, the Liz Murphey offered a rare format — one qualifying stroke play round followed by a match play tournament — which is key for the postseason.

The NCAA Championships introduces its new structure in 2015 resembling the Liz Murphey, with four rounds of qualifying stroke play leading into a match play bracket. That May event allows the top eight teams from stroke play into the match play tournament, just like the Liz Murphey, in which top-eight stroke play finishers make it to the championship bracket.

With the event mirroring the NCAA Championships’ format, it was good practice for the Wildcats, and five of the top seven teams in the country followed suit and showed up at the nightmare University of Georgia golf course.

Only one player bettered par in Friday’s stroke play round, and more golfers shot in the 80s than the 70s. Then-No. 9 NU’s lot never sniffed red numbers, as freshman Hannah Kim paced the squad with a 5-over 77 — good for a 15th place tie — and junior Kaitlin Park’s and senior Hana Lee’s 79s were the only other Cats scores that beat 80.

Cold weather and high winds were major contributors to the ballooning totals, but the course set up was downright sadistic.

“The toughest part (on) Day One were pin placements,” said junior Suchaya Tangkamolprasert, who shot 81. “The greens were tricky and hilly, and then they put the pins next to the hills so that if you missed a little bit, they rolled right back down sometimes 30 to 50 yards.”

Despite the obstacles, the Cats trudged through and placed sixth in stroke play to reach the championship match play bracket.

A stomach bug passed through the squad Friday night, but the players battled through to win Saturday’s quarterfinal match against then-No. 7 Arkansas 4-1.

Later in the day, a semifinal match against host Georgia came down to the wire. The Cats and Bulldogs halved two matches and split the other two for a showdown in the final group between Tangkamolprasert and Georgia sophomore Sammi Lee.

With the score 2-2, Tangkamolprasert 1-up through 17 and the Bulldogs holding the tiebreaker, the junior needed to halve the hole to move the Cats to the finals. But she was purposely left unaware of the full situation.

“The coaches didn’t come up to me and talk about the scores at all,” Tangkamolprasert said. “But I knew that because I was in the last group that this point meant something.”

Alas, Tangkamolprasert came up just yards short of a ridge, and her ball rolled 30 yards off the green, leading to a bogey that lost the junior the hole and allowed Georgia to move on. The Cats finished off the tournament Sunday in the third-place match against then-No. 5 Duke, faltering to a 4-1 loss to drop to fourth.

The Cats dropped to No. 16 in the rankings after the event, but saw key performances from several players. Lee set the tone against Arkansas with a dominant 6 & 5 win in the first match and Kim came back from 3-down in one match to halve.

The biggest performance, though, came from junior Kacie Komoto, who won each of her first two matches 3 & 2.

“I’ve always loved the format of match play,” Komoto said. “You always know where you stand, and you know what you have to do and what it takes to win.”

Despite NU’s rankings dip, Fletcher felt the team earned important experience in match play.

After this brutal test, the Cats have a quick turnaround, leaving Wednesday afternoon for the Bryan National Collegiate.

In the meantime, rest is in the cards.

“The thing is getting everybody healthy, getting them back and their strength up that they haven’t had the last couple of days,” Fletcher said. “That’ll be top of the list.”

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