Women’s Golf: Northwestern collapses down the stretch, finishes second at Big Ten Championships


Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Janet Mao carries her putter. The sophomore and the Wildcats blew an eight-stroke lead in the final round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Joseph Wilkinson, Reporter

Women’s Golf

Northwestern held an eight-stroke lead going into the final day, but a disastrous Sunday collapse left the Wildcats in second place at the Big Ten tournament at 4-over-par for the weekend.

NU led after each of the first two rounds and was the only team under par heading into the final day. The large lead was not enough, however, as Michigan State shot 3-under while the Cats were 7-over on the day to fall to second.

“We played really well the first two days, hung in there and did some really good things,” coach Emily Fletcher said. “We just didn’t play well the final day, didn’t get a lot of momentum going early.”

Junior Hannah Kim recorded a poor 5-over final round after coming into the day at even par, and fellow junior Sarah Cho also carded a 77.

Sophomore Janet Mao came into the final day tied for fifth at 1-under, but put up a ghastly 8-over-par final round that ensured both Kim’s and Cho’s underwhelming scores would count towards the Cats’ final round total.

“My iron shots were really good,” Kim said. “Sunday was just one of those off golf days, which everyone has.”

Even with the disaster unfolding around them, sophomore Stephanie Lau and senior Kacie Komoto closed out the tournament with solid final rounds after each put up higher scores earlier in the week.

Lau bounced back from a 4-over round on Saturday with an impressive 1-under final round including a clutch birdie on the 18th hole to keep NU in contention. Komoto, after shooting 6-over on Friday, was a combined 3-under in her final two rounds.

Komoto was immune to the Cats collapse, as she churned out seven straight pars on the back nine on Sunday before birdying the 17th to pull NU closer to the Spartans.

“We saw some good play from Kacie. That’s probably the brightest spot,” Fletcher said. “Steph finishing top five, that’s encouraging. For two days we played really well, we just struggled (Sunday).”

The eventual champion, Michigan State, was 10 strokes over par on the first day, but a 9-under second round from Sarah Burnham catapulted the Spartans into contention.

While Burnham vaulted up the leaderboard, the Cats’ lineup was much more balanced, as Kim, Cho, Komoto and Mao all turned in 2-under cards in various rounds on the weekend. The only golfer on the squad not to shoot a round that low was Lau, who nonetheless had the best finish on the team in a tie for fifth.

“I didn’t even really realize it,” Lau said. “It feels great. Last round of Big Tens is always about the time, and I’m just happy that I could put out my best.”

The Cats will next compete in the NCAA Regionals, the last step before they try to make it back to the NCAA Championships for the fifth straight year.

With regionals just over two weeks away, Fletcher and the rest of the team will have ample opportunity to fix the issues that contributed to Sunday’s collapse.

“We’ve got a little time before regionals,” Fletcher said. “We need to work a little bit on our ball-striking, short game and putting for sure, but I think we just need to play a little bit.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @joe_f_wilkinson