Men’s Golf: Wildcats withstand the elements, surge to 3rd place finish at The Boilermaker

Tyler Vandermolen, Reporter

Men’s Golf

After a recent string of lackluster finishes marred by sluggish starts, it appears Northwestern may finally be hitting its stride at just the right time.

The Wildcats travelled to Purdue over the weekend to compete in The Boilermaker, an annual stop for the team that pits the Cats against some of its toughest Big Ten competition. Two strong final rounds propelled NU to a 3rd-place finish in the 15-team field, and may provide the momentum boost the team has been searching for.

With the Big Ten Championships set to begin in less than a week, the result could not have come at a better time for the Cats.

“It really is huge for us, especially considering that we hadn’t exactly played our best in some of the tournaments leading up to this,” coach David Inglis said. “From an NCAA rankings perspective, we knew that we really needed two good weeks, and our guys answered the call and got us halfway there.”

The early round struggles that have plagued NU over its past several tournaments were nonexistent at The Boilermaker. After a morning round of 4-over 292 put the team solidly in the middle of the field on Saturday, several Cats came out with guns blazing for the day’s second 18.

Senior Matt Negri and freshman Dylan Wu fired a pair of 4-under 68s to pace the squad, while junior Josh Jamieson posted a strong 1-under 71. The round of 4-under 284 vaulted NU into 5th place on the overnight leaderboard, a mere two shots out of third.

“Saturday night we talked about how critical that final round was going to be,” Inglis said. “Going out and being able to finish the way we did was really encouraging.”

Although Saturday’s scoring conditions were nearly ideal, on Sunday the field was forced to fight through driving rain and wind, as well as a temperature drop from the previous day.

But NU has proven resilient in the face of adverse weather conditions in the past, and has found success in previous tournaments in which scoring was limited by the elements. Wu said he believes the team’s mental toughness has allowed them to excel in these demanding situations.

“We’re just the kind of team that doesn’t mind having to grind it out and fight for pars,” he said. “Playing in the Midwest, we’ve kinda gotten used to imperfect weather, so it’s not something we mind all that much.”

The Cats’ third round 5-over 293 was the third best of any contending team on the day behind only Miami University and conference rival and eventual champion Illinois. Strong rounds of 72 by Jamieson and senior Bennett Lavin allowed NU to surge past both Ohio State and GRU Augusta into 3rd place.

Inglis was especially pleased with Lavin’s performance.

“The round Bennett put together under those conditions was fantastic, and to do it when we absolutely needed to have it was just huge,” he said. “The difference between this week and last week was the fact that we were able to get solid contributions outside our top three guys.”

Negri, Wu and Jamieson all finished inside the top 20 at last week’s Kepler Intercollegiate, and the trio impressed again at The Boilermaker by all earning top-12 honors.

Negri led the Cats with a three-round total of 1-under 215, good enough to tie for 9th place, while Jamieson and Wu both tied for 12th with 1-over 217s. Lavin’s strong final round pushed him into a tie for 36th (+7, 223) and freshman Sam Triplett finished tied for 68th (+16, 232).

Competing as an individual, senior Scott Smith finished tied for 75th (+20, 236).

With their struggles hopefully behind them, NU now turns its attention to the pivotal event of its season — the Big Ten Championships from April 24-26.

“Playing this well leading into the event we’ve been preparing for all year is a huge boost of confidence for us,” Wu said. “We’re just all really excited, because we know what we’re capable of if we play the way we can.”

Twitter: @tgvandermolen