Then-No. 12 Northwestern nearly completed an epic comeback on Tuesday before faltering at the finish.
For the second consecutive event, the Wildcats entered as the highest-ranked team in the field and failed to live up to their leading billing.
NU took a share of the lead in the middle of the final round of the Silverado Showdown after being sixth in the standings through 18 holes, but ultimately placed fifth in the two-day, 54-hole event in Napa, California. The Cats finished behind then-No. 32 Oregon, No. 39 Colorado, Oregon State and Harvard.
“At any given time in women’s golf, there are teams that you don’t think are ranked that well that can step up and beat you,” coach Emily Fletcher said. “So you have to be on your game at all times. You have to take care of the little things. And we’re not doing that.”
This result dropped NU three spots in the rankings and comes on the heels of a tough 11th-place showing at the Bryan National Collegiate.
But the team displayed key signs of improvement as well as more fight in this effort.
In the previous two events, NU’s prime advantage on the par-fives evaporated and its birdie numbers plummeted too. At the Silverado, though, the Cats placed second in par-5 scoring with a 5.05 average and were tied for seventh in the 15-team field with 24 birdies.
And then there was the specter of a near triumph from an adverse position.
While the first 18 holes of Monday produced two rounds in the 80s for the Cats, as well as a 13-shot deficit, the next 18 saw two NU players came up with subpar scores on the Silverado North Course layout.
“That’s been missing the last couple of weeks, having someone shoot under par to take the pressure off the rest of the team,” Fletcher said.
Indeed, the red numbers swiftly jumped the Cats into third place and just six back of the lead.
Suchaya Tangkamolprasert proved the most effective in this department, carding four birdies on the way to a 3-under 69.
The junior, who would finish tied for third following four previous spring starts without a top-20, mostly attributed the low score to her flatstick.
“My putting was decently good in the first round but they just weren’t dropping,” Tangkamolprasert said. “In the second round, I read the greens better and I got used to the speed and how they were rolling and more dropped.”
Sophomore Kacie Komoto, who shot the other subpar score, also pointed to her putter, specifically from 15-25 feet, to explain her success.
But the good vibes didn’t last.
After the Cats climbed into a tie for first in the middle of the final round, players dropped multiple strokes simultaneously and the team suddenly went from 4-over to 12-over for the day and plummeted to fifth.
“We have to focus on the present and not get caught up in results,” Komoto said. “I think that’ll help us stay a little stronger in the end next time.”
Along with Tangkamolprasert’s tie for third, Komoto finished tied for seventh. But senior Hana Lee and freshmen Sarah Cho and Hannah Kim all placed outside the top 30.
Komoto insisted, though, that the return of the team’s depth is not far off.
“All of us are really ball striking really well,” Komoto said. “After practice indoors, mechanically we are good, but we just have to get our feel back a little bit.”
For Fletcher, it’s imperative more than two players are up to par. Big Ten Championships are now nine days away, and with a 6-count-4 format there, depth will be a big advantage if NU can recover it by then.
The coach said poor work on the greens as well as mediocre chips are still plaguing NU like they have in recent events.
But a rush of confidence still appears to be the greatest need for Big Tens.
“As a whole we have to embrace the mindset of doing something right, and not thinking about doing something wrong,” Fletcher said. “We need to go out there and play our best rather than focusing on our misses.”
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