The Daily Northwestern

Men’s Golf: Northwestern prepares to defend lone 2016 tournament title

Ryan Lumsden watches his putt. The junior will be part of the team competing at Erin Hills starting Sunday.

Ryan Lumsden watches his putt. The junior will be part of the team competing at Erin Hills starting Sunday.

(Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette)

(Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette)

Ryan Lumsden watches his putt. The junior will be part of the team competing at Erin Hills starting Sunday.

Benjy Apelbaum, Assistant Sports Editor

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Men’s Golf

Northwestern is heading to the site of the 2017 U.S. Open hoping to defend its lone tournament title from last year.

The Wildcats will tee off Sunday at the Marquette-hosted Erin Hills Intercollegiate for their second event of the fall. NU will participate in a 15-team field that coach David Inglis said is more talented than in 2016, when the Cats won the event held at nearby Milwaukee Country Club.

NU will look to improve on a disappointing 13th place finish out of 15 teams in the Fighting Illini Invitational two weeks ago.

“Obviously it was a bit of a struggle, but we kind of came in a little unprepared, so we’ve been working really, really hard on our games in the last two weeks,” junior Ryan Lumsden said.

The Cats strived to raise the energy of practice after Inglis said his players came out flat and rusty in their first event since the summer.

To ramp up the intensity, Inglis said he made his players compete for starting spots.

“We didn’t look ready to play, so I tried to create a sense of urgency in this last qualifier and put the onus on the players to step up and see who wants to play,” he said. “We kind of turned it loose on them, and we’ll figure out the lineup in the next couple days.”

The coaching staff also imposed certain rules for practice rounds to prepare players for difficult tournament rounds, Lumsden said. He said shots that landed in the deep rough were considered out of bounds, and players were forced to chip, rather than putt, from the edge of the green.

Erin Hills is a famously challenging course. It hosted the 2017 U.S. Open this past June and is the longest course in major championship history. The course will feature a similar layout at next week’s tournament and will play as a daunting 7,722-yard par 72.

“Obviously, a U.S. Open course (is difficult)… but we can’t wait for the challenge,” Lumsden said. “It looked beautiful when we watched it on TV, and we are excited and ready to go and can’t wait for it.”

NU competed at Erin Hills three years ago, when seniors Dylan Wu and Sam Triplett were freshmen. The pair will return to the Wisconsin course Sunday looking to lead the team to a better finish than in its first tournament of the year.

Inglis, however, does not want to put pressure on his team to hit any specific score.

“We’re just going to focus on the process of playing golf the best we can, taking it moment-by-moment and focusing on the task of hitting the golf shot and then moving on,” Inglis said. “I think if we do that, that’s when we know we play our best.”

Twitter: @benjyapelbaum