Daily file photo by Ben Pope
Northwestern is still looking to reach the heights it reached last season. To open the spring slate, the Wildcats travelled to the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, taking on some of the best teams in the country in Palos Verdes, California, and finishing 12th in the 18-team field.
This weekend, they’re back it and looking for a better result, travelling to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, to play in the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate.
“We really weren’t at our best out at Palos Verdes,” coach Emily Fletcher said. “We definitely need to do a better job of managing our misses and minimizing our mistakes. We definitely compounded our errors in Palos Verdes and had quite a few short-game doubles.”
NU will once again be up against some of the most talented teams in the country this weekend. Defending national champions Arizona State and four of the top six teams in the country — No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Arkansas, No. 5 Duke and No. 6 South Carolina — will be participating.
Fletcher said consistently playing in fields stacked with high-quality teams has been her strategy throughout her time coaching the Cats.
“Our philosophy is you play against the best, you kind of play up to that level,” Fletcher said. “That’s important if we’re going to compete on a national level for a national championship, we need to understand what level that takes week in and week out.”
While NU has suffered from inconsistency as a team, star senior Hannah Kim has been as solid as ever.
Kim’s 71.94 stroke average is dead even with the program-record mark she set her sophomore year, and she is the only Cats golfer to finish in the top-25 at every event so far this season. She even nailed a hole-in-one in her second round at Palos Verdes.
Still, Kim knows there’s room for improvement as a team.
“The last tournament, we kind of got ahead of ourselves,” Kim said. “We were really excited to be outside, but I think we kind of lost focus a little bit. I think we’re looking forward to getting back on the right track and just ending this winter season on a good note.”
Fletcher said the course is completely new to all the NU golfers, who will take advantage of a practice round Thursday in order to familiarize themselves with it.
One of the unique aspects of this tournament, besides its location, is the title sponsor. Well-known country artist Darius Rucker is hosting his seventh annual women’s college golf tournament.
Rucker, known mostly for his hit song “Wagon Wheel,” partnered with South Carolina’s director of golf, Puggy Blackmon, to start the tournament. As part of the experience, all the golfers and coaches are invited to a private concert by Rucker on Thursday night.
“Hopefully we get to meet him, but I don’t think so,” senior Sarah Cho said. “We get to go to his concert, but that would be amazing if we get to meet him.”
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