Women’s Golf: Northwestern looks to finally snag outright Big Ten Championship


Daily file photo by Ben Pope

Sarah Cho hits a putt. Cho is one of two Northwestern seniors who will play in their final Big Ten Championship tournament this weekend.

Joseph Wilkinson, Digital Projects Editor

Women’s Golf

Emily Fletcher has almost done it all in her 10 seasons at Northwestern. She led the Wildcats to a National Championship runner-up finish in 2017, in her fourth straight appearance. She’s been named Big Ten Coach of the Year four times, and NU golfers have been named to eight All-America teams in her tenure.

But she’s still missing an outright Big Ten Championship. The Cats have tied for the title three of the past five years, but have yet to pull away from the field to claim the top spot for themselves.

“The goal is to be competing in contention on Sunday for a Big Ten Championship,” Fletcher said. “But we don’t talk about that as a team, about ‘Oh, we’ve got to go get this outright versus tying.’ It’s just about us really going out and competing and being the best we can be. If we do that, we’ll be in the mix come Sunday.”

Last year, Fletcher and her record-setting NU squad were all set to snag that elusive crown, entering the final round with an eight-stroke lead on second-place Michigan State. But behind 2017 Big Ten Player of the Year Sarah Burnham, the Spartans rallied and claimed the title by two strokes.

This year, senior Hannah Kim and the Cats roll back onto the TPC River’s Bend course in Maineville, Ohio, hoping to change the narrative.

“I’m looking forward to winning,” Kim said. “We didn’t win last year, so I want to redeem that title. … At this point, I’m just playing for something bigger than myself, so I’m really just rooting for the big team win.”

Last year’s unranked Michigan State squad came out of nowhere to break up the Northwestern-Ohio State duopoly at the top of the conference after the Cats had split the 2015 and 2016 championships with the Buckeyes.

This year, the Spartans are ranked No. 11 in the country, only a single spot behind No. 10 NU. Both teams will return at least four golfers as the teams come back to the site of last year’s dramatic duel.

“Everybody has the same advantage going into this year,” Fletcher said. “We had some good play there last year, so I think we have some positive memories. … The course conditions, we’ll have to see once we get there, but I think they could be quite different… it’s probably going to play a bit longer and soft.”

For Kim and fellow senior Sarah Cho, this will be their final shot at that evasive outright title. They’ll be joined by juniors Janet Mao, Stephanie Lau and Monica Matsubara, all of whom played in last year’s showdown as well. Sophomore Brooke Riley will be the only newcomer to the Cats lineup.

Kim and Cho enter their final postseason as possibly the most decorated senior class in program history. The duo have been catalysts in the best three NCAA Tournament finishes in school history and shared two Big Ten Championships. Kim is a two-time conference Player of the Year. Cho won the individual title at this event during her freshman year, and now she’s looking to repeat that success in her final opportunity.

“It’s really a bittersweet moment,” Cho said. “It’s kind of crazy that time flew by this fast. We’re all really, really excited to play this week. … We missed it by two last year, so we were a little bit discouraged, but that’s why we’ve worked really hard this year.”

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