Women’s Golf: Northwestern returns to national championship looking to erase last year’s heartbreak


Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Stephanie Lau prepares for her putt. The sophomore and the Wildcats begin the National Championships on Friday.

Joseph Wilkinson, Reporter

Women’s Golf

Last year, Northwestern turned in the best performance in program history, finishing in ninth place at the NCAA National Championships.

For the Wildcats, however, it was a slight disappointment, as they were a single stroke from reaching the final match play tournament, which features the top eight teams and determines the final national champions. This year, ninth won’t be good enough for NU.

“The value of one shot hasn’t been lost on us,” coach Emily Fletcher said. “At the end of the day, you can play four rounds of golf, and it can easily come down to one or two shots. There’s a mindfulness of staying in the present and fighting for every shot that we have now.”

The Cats lineup last year was the youngest in the field, and the entire squad is back for another run at the championship this year.

Senior Kacie Komoto is the veteran of the squad. She has been part of the national championship roster in each of her four years at NU, and this will be her final tournament as a collegiate golfer.

After struggling at the beginning of the winter season, Komoto has turned in back-to-back clutch performances at the Big Ten Championships and the NCAA Regionals to help put the Cats in championship contention.

“As long as we go out there and trust ourselves and the work we’ve put in over these past years really, I think we’re going to like our results,” Komoto said. “I’ve been polishing off my swing and getting it more accurate and consistent.”

Hannah Kim is the star of the squad, having won back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year awards in her first two years at NU. The junior holds every individual record in the program record book and has five top-10 finishes this season, including two individual titles.

Last year, however, Kim finished tied for 36th at nationals and posted her worst score of the weekend in the final round to finish 4-over-par on the weekend.

“We’re just more determined this year,” Kim said. “I’ve been working a lot on more short game. Around the greens there’s a lot of rough, so that was a big focus for me.”

Sarah Cho is the other junior on the squad, but she has also posted the fifth-best scoring average in program history this year. Cho has two National Championship appearances and two individual titles to her own name.

Sophomores Stephanie Lau and Janet Mao could be the difference makers for the Cats. Both have shown flashes of incredible potential: Lau put up the best performance on the team at last year’s nationals and Mao tied for medalist honors at last year’s regional tournament.

However, both have struggled this year, posting the two highest scores at the regional event and finishing 10 more strokes over par than any other NU golfer.

Though the entire lineup has championship experience after last year, Komoto is the only golfer who’s been part of national championship teams all four years at Northwestern, each year helping the team to a new program-best finish.

“It’s exciting,” Komoto said. “It’s been a great ride. I’ve had great teammates all four years, and I’m just excited to see what we can do this year.”

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