Women’s Golf: No. 6 Wildcats open spring against top competition


Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Hannah Kim hits an iron off the tee. The sophomore and reigning Big Ten Player of the Year is hoping for a hot start to 2016 in the Lady Puerto Rico Classic.

Joseph Wilkinson, Reporter

Women’s Golf

Northwestern hasn’t played in any competitive tournaments since October, but the grind didn’t stop in the interim months for the No. 6 Wildcats.

The long layoff ends Sunday, as the reigning Big Ten champions return to the course in the Lady Puerto Rico Classic.

“I’m just excited to see us compete again,” coach Emily Fletcher said. “Obviously, we look forward to getting outside. It’s a great trip, this is a good group, and any time you can go to Puerto Rico in February that’s a good thing.”

The field in Puerto Rico is stacked with top competition, but NU is no stranger to the best teams in the country.

The Cats’ most recent tournament was the Stanford Intercollegiate, which featured three of the top four teams in the country. In Puerto Rico, NU will be up against No. 5 Georgia, No. 8 Arkansas and No. 9 Kent State along with six more top-30 teams.

The Cats, however, aren’t worried about the competition as much as they’re excited about returning to competition.

“Just being outside in the warm again I hope will be fun,” junior Kacie Komoto said. “Playing and competing again, I’m most excited for that.”

The field also features conference opponents Michigan, Indiana, Purdue and Maryland, which will help NU gauge its standing in the Big Ten hierarchy.

Last season, the Cats split the Big Ten championship with Ohio State, with then-freshman Sarah Cho winning the individual title. Now Cho is looking to follow up her impressive performances in the spring of last year and the fall of this season with another good start.

“Starting well gives everyone, not just me, but as a team, confidence,” Cho said. “That translates into our individual play, so I think that’s important.”

In addition to its strong play to finish last season, NU opened the fall season with a string of impressive performances.

Along with their fourth-place finish at Stanford, the Cats won the Windy City Classic in Wilmette and took second at the Mason Rudolph Championship in Tennessee as well as at the Dick McGuire Invitational in New Mexico. Cho won the latter tournament as well, shooting 8-under par while sophomore teammate Hannah Kim, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, shot 6-under to tie for third place.

Given the team’s solid showings in its most recent matches, Fletcher’s overall outlook for the team in this tournament is a bit surprising.

“I think that we have high expectations, and we’re going to go grind it out,” Fletcher said. “I expect us to play well and play smart, but I also know that we haven’t competed in a couple months. I think we’ll be competitive, but I don’t put too much stock in what we’re doing as an end-all and be-all right now. It’s part of the process.”

Many teams claim to be looking at the schedule one step at a time, but NU is taking a different approach so far this year.

While Cho, Komoto, Kim and the rest of the team prepare for the trip to Puerto Rico, coach Fletcher is already looking way ahead.

“As I’ve told the girls and as we’ve talked about together, we’re looking to be our very best come Big Tens, Regionals and Nationals,” Fletcher said. “And if that means we’re going through a bit of a learning curve right now that’s okay.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @joe_f_wilkinson