Women’s Golf: Wildcats seeking at least Elite Eight berth at NCAA Championships


Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

A Northwestern golfer looks out from the tee. The Wildcats believe they are ready to compete for a national championship.

Joseph Wilkinson, Reporter

Women’s Golf

Last year, Northwestern’s 10th-place finish in the NCAA Championship was good enough, as the Wildcats set a new school record for best finish in the tournament.

This year, 10th place won’t cut it for the players.

“They’re very proud of what they’ve done, but certainly you can tell by their general mood and attitude that they’re not just here to partake and be a participant,” coach Emily Fletcher said. “They’re here with a goal in mind of making it to the Elite Eight and competing in the match play and actually competing for a national championship.”

Last year, NU fell four strokes shy of competing in the eight-team match play bracket. Two time Big Ten Player of the Year, sophomore Hannah Kim, struggled mightily, shooting 14-over par on day one of the tournament before turning in significantly better performances in rounds three and four.

This year, the team is counting on Kim to improve on that performance, and she’ll have to be up to the task if the Cats want to match up with the top teams in the country.

“We know that we have a chance to play better than last year,” Kim said. “Just the learning experiences from last year will really help the team this year.”

The rest of the NU lineup includes junior Kacie Komoto, sophomore Sarah Cho and freshmen Stephanie Lau and Janet Mao, who led the team in their regional victory.

Komoto was NU’s second-best performer in last year’s tournament, behind now-senior Suchaya Tangkamolprasert. Tangkamolprasert won’t be on the roster in Eugene after struggling for much of the year, leaving Komoto as the team’s only upperclassman in the lineup.

“Our team is comprised of leaders, and we know how to lead ourselves,” Komoto said. “I don’t think there’s any pressure on me to take care of them. Everyone takes care of themselves, and we take care of each other, so it’s just a really great team dynamic.”

If the Cats are to make it out of the stroke play rounds this year, they’ll need an improved match play performance over their only previous competitive match play tournament this year. NU took sixth place against a similarly stacked field in the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic in early April.

The team had a unique plan in order to get additional match play practice again against strong competition.

“We played a little match play against our men’s team last Friday,” Fletcher said. “We had a good round. The boys beat us, but it was really competitive.”

NU comes into the tournament ranked No. 7, but the championship field is led by No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 USC and No. 3 UCLA.

The Cats faced the Trojans at the Liz Murphey, losing 4-1 in match play, and also played the Crimson Tide and Bruins at the Ping/ASU Invitational the next week and finished far behind their top-ranked competitors.

Recently, however, NU has stepped up its performance compared to top competition, shooting 21 strokes better than the top-seeded Crimson Tide in their regional tournament.

“I’m really proud of the girls’ efforts and what we’ve done this year,” Fletcher said. “They’ve had their sights on this for a long time.”

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