Men’s Golf: Wildcats finish eighth at Kepler but defeat Big Ten rivals

Tyler Vandermolen, Reporter


Golf


For the third time in as many events, Northwestern was forced to battle back after a sluggish start, this time at the Kepler Intercollegiate in Columbus, Ohio.

Although head coach David Inglis and some players spoke earlier in the week about the importance of coming out faster than in previous tournaments, a tough first nine holes in the event’s opening round proved once again to be the Wildcats’ primary obstacle in competing for a top-5 finish. A hard-fought final two rounds allowed the team to finish a respectable eighth out of 14 teams, but NU’s early struggles had Inglis lamenting what could have been.

“There’s no question that the first nine holes of the event were the worst that we played all weekend, which is really too bad because our guys battled hard out there for all three rounds,” he said. “They came out with a lot of energy for that final round, but we just shot ourselves in the foot a bit early on.”

The event was not without its bright spots for the Cats, as three of its usual standouts finished inside the tournament’s top-20. Senior Matt Negri posted a score of 6-over 219 to finish tied for 18th, while freshman Dylan Wu and junior Josh Jamieson each tied for 20th with a pair of 7-over 220s.

Despite the trio’s efforts, an inability to card a fourth low score ultimately hurt the team total.

“Any time you have three guys in the top-20, that’s something you have to be happy with,” Inglis said. “We just really needed a strong fourth performance to pick up a few shots and maybe jump up the leaderboard a couple places, but unfortunately we didn’t get that.”

Yet even these solid finishes were tinged with disappointment. Each of the three was prevented from finishing even higher by one of their three rounds on the weekend.

Negri and Jamieson both struggled out of the gate, posting rounds of 76 and 77, respectively, in the event’s first round. Although Wu began the tournament considerably better, his first round score of 1-under 70 was partially spoiled by a second round 76.

For Jamieson, a Scotland native, the early inconsistency was even more disappointing because of how closely the wet conditions and layout of the course mimicked those he grew up with.

“I tend to play some of my best golf when it’s like that because that’s what I’m used to,” he said. “Honestly I didn’t play particularly poorly in any of the three rounds, I just really struggled getting putts to fall on that first day.”

The Cats are now just two weeks from the Big Ten Championships, the event they have had their eyes on from the start of the spring. The Kepler Intercollegiate offered them a good indication of where they stand within the conference, with six other Big Ten teams competing in the event.

NU defeated four of those teams, including a strong Maryland squad the Cats previously fell to at Big Ten Match Play in February. Only Ohio State and Michigan finished higher in Columbus.

“It’s always nice to be able to beat your conference rivals, and I think it definitely gives you some measure of confidence,” Wu said. “Still though, our goal is to compete to win the tournament, so that’s what we have to keep working towards.”

Despite the Cats’ recent string of middling results, history has shown the hotly contested Big Ten Championships are often anyone’s for the taking. Not only does the winner of the event earn a conference title, but a coveted automatic bid to the NCAA Championships is at stake as well.

Inglis and his team need only look back to last year to find reason for optimism.

“If you remember last season, you had a team in Minnesota that hadn’t really been playing that well towards the end of the season, but then they just went out and lit it up and won a Big Ten title,” he said. “It just goes to show that all that needs to happen is for us to get hot at the right time and we can do it too.”

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