Men’s Golf: Tough course, Big Ten opponents will serve as barometer for Wildcats at Kepler Intercollegiate

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Men’s Golf: Tough course, Big Ten opponents will serve as barometer for Wildcats at Kepler Intercollegiate

Bennett Lavin shoots his way out of a bunker. The senior will be critical in helping Northwestern navigate a competitive field and difficult course this weekend.

Bennett Lavin shoots his way out of a bunker. The senior will be critical in helping Northwestern navigate a competitive field and difficult course this weekend.

Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Bennett Lavin shoots his way out of a bunker. The senior will be critical in helping Northwestern navigate a competitive field and difficult course this weekend.

Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Bennett Lavin shoots his way out of a bunker. The senior will be critical in helping Northwestern navigate a competitive field and difficult course this weekend.

Tyler Vandermolen, Reporter

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While Northwestern hasn’t had any events on its schedule since returning from its West Coast swing last week, the team has hardly enjoyed what could be called a week off.

The Wildcats had one of their busiest weeks of preparation yet this season in advance of the Kepler Intercollegiate in Columbus, Ohio beginning this Saturday. After somewhat inconsistent results over NU’s recent stretch of tournaments, head coach David Inglis has continually emphasized the need for constant competition in practice and the simulation of tournament conditions as his young team gears up for a run at the Big Ten Championships at the end of the month.

Inglis elected to hold an in-team playoff this week to determine which five players the team would bring to Ohio.

“It works twofold, because it allows you to figure out who your players are going to be for the week and it also allows you to compete under the type of pressure and conditions that you would experience in a tournament,” Inglis said. “Obviously you can never simulate those situations exactly, but it’s absolutely paramount in helping us maintain our edge.”

Freshman Dylan Wu agreed, saying such competition may be exactly what the Cats need heading into the home stretch of their season.

“Having something like that at stake in practice really just keeps your competitive juices flowing, and going out and being able to preform under conditions like that gives you confidence that you’ll be able to do it in a tournament round,” Wu said.

Wu finished second in the multi-day playoff, falling one shot short of junior Josh Jamieson, who was propelled to victory by a Monday round of 67. Seniors Bennett Lavin and Matthew Negri and freshman Charles Wang will round out NU’s lineup in Columbus.

An annual stop on the team’s tour, the three-round Kepler Intercollegiate will be held at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course, which Inglis described as “one of the toughest courses in the country for college golf.” Playing a daunting 7,455 yards, the track yielded only one under par team round to last year’s strong 15-team field.

Although the course will undoubtedly be a formidable test, Wu believes its difficulty as well as a return to the harsher conditions of the Midwest may actually be more conducive to the team’s success.

“I think it benefits us because we tend to play our best when scores are low and we have to grind it out,” he said.  “We’ve played some of our best golf on some harder courses, and whether it’s wind or it’s rain we know how to handle it.”

The Cats enter the weekend with a strong history at the event, having won four times since its inception in 1969. Though they finished tied for 8th in a tightly packed field at last season’s tournament, Wu thinks a strong result could be on the way if the team is able to stick to its game plan.

“I think the important thing is just being able to stay patient, especially on a course that’s this tough,” he said. “We’ve hurt ourselves a couple times this year by getting off to slow starts and having to play catch-up, so coming out a little hotter is going to be big for us.”

Including NU, the tournament features a total of seven Big Ten teams, and will likely provide the squad with a solid indication of where it stands within the conference before the Big Ten Championships.

The focus for Inglis remains a strong showing in postseason play.

“Obviously the Big Ten Championships are what we’re preparing for, so I think it’s more important to emphasize the process than the result,” Inglis said. “We want to see the energy and the intensity that the guys bring, and we want to make sure that we’re ready when it really counts.”

Email: tylervandermolen2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @tgvandermolen

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