Daily file photo by Alison Albelda
Irene Kim had a very typical start to her freshman season. In her first four matches at the college level, Kim never finished higher than 21st place, and she’d finished as low as 57th.
Northwestern played in its first match of the spring season this week, and Kim had a surprising showing –– she won the whole tournament.
The freshman led the field at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic, shooting nine-under par in 54 holes, and the Wildcats won the Lady Puerto Rico Classic, earning their first team win in ten months.
“She putted incredible this week, and it was the best I’d seen her putt since she came to school,” coach Emily Fletcher said. “This was the first time she’d led a college tournament going into the final round, and to go out and shoot a 67 really speaks to her talent.”
The La Palma, California native had the third-best tournament score in NU history this weekend and was named Big Ten golfer of the week. She scored a career-best 5-under in the final round, which was the 14th best single round in the Cats’ history.
After losing former all-Big Ten golfers Janet Mao and Stephanie Lau to graduation following last season, Kim showed that NU still has enough top-heavy talent to compete in the Big Ten this year.
Kim led the Cats to a come from behind victory on the team’s third day at the Rio Mar Country Club in Puerto Rico. NU entered the tournament’s final day in fourth place, but the Cats saved their best round of the tournament for the final 18 holes. NU shot eight-under par on the last day to turn a nine-shot deficit into a six-shot advantage.
“The conditions were just as tough on the final day, and we had quite a bit of wind,” Fletcher said. “But we just got going, made a lot more birdies and limited our mistakes. There was a stretch of holes –– eleven through fifteen –– which we joked was our birdie alley. We were able to take advantage of that, which other teams didn’t do.”
Sophomore Kelly Sim tied for third in the field and finished three shots behind Kim, and sophomore Kelly Su and senior Brooke Riley also played well in the third round to help lead the Cats to victory.
NU struggled in its fall season, finishing ninth place or lower in every event. The highest individual finish for any Cats golfer was senior Brooke Riley’s T8 finish at the Mason Rudolph Invitational, but no other NU golfer placed in the top 20 at any event.
Fletcher said starting the spring season with a win showed the team it can reach its goals of competing for Big Ten and national championships.
“Our team has really worked hard in the off-season,” Fletcher said. “We’re beginning to see some real improvement all the way through the lineup. Any time you see some results come from your hard work, that’s an affirmation of what we’re trying to do.”
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