Women’s Golf: Wildcats look to take the next step toward a championship

Joseph Wilkinson, Reporter

Women’s Golf

The postseason pressure ratchets up to a new level for Northwestern this weekend, as the Wildcats head to Shoal Creek, Alabama, to vie for a chance to go to the NCAA Championships in two weeks.

Only six of the 18 teams at the regional will advance to the finals and the competition will be stiff, as No. 11 NU goes up against No. 3 Alabama, No. 8 Oklahoma State, No. 16 California, No. 19 Iowa State and No. 25 Tennessee, along with a host of other top-50 challengers. In addition to the high-caliber opponents, the Cats will also be playing on a course they have only practiced on once before.

“It’s really a different course,” freshman Stephanie Lau said. “There’s a lot more to it. There’s some chippy greens, so ball placement will be really important.”

Although NU had two weeks off after claiming the Big Ten Championship, the team’s practice schedule was altered due to a frigid end of April in Evanston.

The Cats were forced to practice indoors for much of the break, making their final preparations in Alabama even more crucial.

“We really took advantage of today,” coach Emily Fletcher said. “We’ve been focusing on playing the golf course a little bit longer at home just because this course is going to be longer than what we’ve played. We’ve been trying to challenge ourselves a little bit more with the yardages and distances.”

NU will need quality performances from the newly named Big Ten Player of the Year, sophomore Hannah Kim, as well as Lau, who won Big Ten Freshman of the Year. In the Big Ten Championship, Lau converted a clutch par putt to earn the Cats a share of the title.

This is the second-straight year Kim won Big Ten Player of the Year. In addition, she also was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year last year.

“I’m truly humbled by it,” Kim said. “I didn’t expect it at all, but it’s a great reminder for me to keep working hard and focusing on my goals, and not get too far ahead of myself.”

Joining Kim and Lau will be junior Kacie Komoto, sophomore Sarah Cho and freshman Janet Mao, who will replace senior Suchaya Tangkamolprasert in the lineup.

Both Komoto and Cho were named first team All-Big Ten along with Kim and Lau, while Mao was named to the second team.

Even with the various accolades the team has piled up, inexperience with the course may cost the team. However, Kim said the team’s practice round will be invaluable in preparing everyone.

“The course is really challenging and I think tests all parts of our game this week,” Kim said. “Being out there gave us a feel for the greens and the fairways and where to aim.”

When they hit the course in Alabama, however, they will be competing against top competition from all conferences, as multiple opponents had a number of golfers named to their respective all-conference first teams.

As NU goes up against competition, the stakes are simple: win or go home.

“It’s just a bit of that survive and advance mode that we’re in right now,” Fletcher said. “I don’t quite know what to expect score-wise, but certainly our goal as a team is to finish in the top three and certainly in the top six.”

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