Men’s Golf: Northwestern hopes familiarity, proximity pay off at NCAA Regionals


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Dylan Wu hits a drive. Wu’s final NCAA Regionals tournament will take place at a familiar course.

Ben Pope, Sports Editor

Men’s Golf

Despite a disappointing fifth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships in late April, Northwestern knew it would still be bound for the NCAA Regionals. But it didn’t know where.

When the Wildcats discovered they’d been selected for the Ohio State-hosted Columbus, Ohio, regional — to be played on what coach David Inglis called the “familiar grasses” of the Scarlet Course — they were thrilled.

“A lot of the courses we practice at are really close in similarity with Ohio State,” senior Dylan Wu said. “(On) a lot of the courses, we can prep the same way with similar types of grass and similar conditions.”

The top five of the 13 teams at the regional will advance to the NCAA Championships later this month in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and the Cats enter the week with the sixth-highest national ranking at 35th. Oklahoma State (1st), Illinois (12th), Texas Tech (13th), Nevada-Las Vegas (24th) and Wake Forest (25th) are ranked above them; the likes of Penn State (37th) and Tennessee (48th) will probably be in the mix, as well.

But of those teams, only Illinois also hails from the Midwest, where the courses have thicker, hardier grass. Add that on to the forecasted treacherous weather — 80 percent chances of rain on Monday and Tuesday, and 60 percent on Wednesday — NU is hoping to take advantage of some of its more pampered opponents from calmer, warmer climates.

“Other teams more often play on easier courses in easier conditions,” Wu said. “We’re used to the winters and springs in Chicago where it’s windy, hard and the weather is bad, so we’re just used to those tougher conditions.”

The Scarlet Course will pose a stark challenge nonetheless.

Two years ago, three current golfers (Wu, now-junior Ryan Lumsden and now-senior Sam Triplett) were among the five players who carried the Cats to a ninth-place finish in a two-day regular season tournament at the same course — at 36-over par. UNLV won that tournament at 18-over.

“We’ve started to get some warmer weather lately in the Midwest, so the rough is (taller), so there’s a premium on putting the ball in the fairway,” Inglis said of the course. “The greens are very fast, very sloped, and it just gets demanding when you get out of position.”

NU hopes to avenge a final-day collapse in last year’s NCAA Regionals, when it blew a lead on the 18th hole to slip into a tie for fifth and then lost to Jacksonville in the ensuing playoff. Inglis said the memory of that heartbreak is “still pretty fresh, and it stings,” giving the Cats even more motivation this spring.

Freshman Eric McIntosh, who last appeared in the Boilermaker Invitational and tied for 30th, will replace junior Pete Griffith in the team’s five-man lineup, which also features Wu, Lumsden, Triplett and sophomore Everton Hawkins. First-round play will begin Monday morning.

“We definitely we’re one of the better teams here and we believe we can make a good run at this,” Lumsden said. “Now it’s really a case of executing and getting the job done.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @benpope111