Women’s Golf: Wildcats look for second-straight regional title en route to National Championship


Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Janet Mao watches her ball flight. The Georgia native and the Wildcats are seeking to repeat last year’s successes at the NCAA Regionals.

Joseph Wilkinson, Reporter

Women’s Golf

Last year, Northwestern traveled south for its NCAA Regional, then won the tournament and finished 18 strokes ahead of the No. 1 team in the country.

This year, the No. 11 Wildcats will look for another dominant regional performance in the South. Though Alabama is no longer the No. 1 team in the country — the Crimson Tide currently sit at No. 2 — it is the top seed in the region and will likely be looking for redemption after last year’s blowout.

“It’ll give us some confidence coming in,” coach Emily Fletcher said. “I’m sure Alabama’s not forgetting that we beat them by 20 shots at Shoal Creek last year. I’m sure their coach is talking to them about that as a way of keeping them motivated.”

NU heads to Athens, Georgia this year, home of No. 8 Georgia, the second seed in the regional.

The Bulldogs may be the hosts, but the entire Cats lineup knows the terrain as well. In three of the last four years, NU has played a series of match play events on the course as part of the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic.

“I’m really excited because I’m from Georgia, and the University of Georgia golf course is one that I’ve played before and that I like,” sophomore Janet Mao said. “I’m excited to go back to my home state and play well.”

Mao had an exceptional week at the regionals last year, tying for the individual title and helping the Cats run away with the title.

She will be joined by the same squad from a season ago, including two-time Big Ten Player of the Year junior Hannah Kim, first team All-Big Ten sophomore Stephanie Lau, second-team All-Big Ten junior Sarah Cho and senior Kacie Komoto.

“For us, it’s going to come down to trusting what we’ve worked on this whole year,” Komoto said. “It’s going to be good. We’ll all be able to get comfortable on the course, and then as long we play our own games, we’ll do just fine.”

That talent and experience on the course, however, aren’t unique at the tournament. In addition to Alabama and Georgia, the field features No. 12 Arizona and No. 17 Baylor.

The Cats are one of seven top-25 teams in the field, which also includes a Michigan State squad that bested NU two weeks ago in the Big Ten Championship. Just six squads will qualify for the National Championships in under two weeks.

Fletcher said she knows last year’s result will be of little help to the Cats this year against the stacked field. Though the same experienced lineup returns to the high pressure regional situation, last year’s title can’t help the Cats now.

“It’s a completely different golf course than last year,” Fletcher said. “We’re just approaching it as we would any event, and not so much as us defending a title.”

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