Men’s Golf: Northwestern grabs third-place finish at Big Ten Championship to qualify for NCAA Regionals


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

James Imai swings his club. The sophomore’s 70 on Sunday represented Northwestern’s lowest round of the Big Ten Championship.

Patrick Andres, Web Editor

Men’s Golf

At the end of a historic 2021 season, Northwestern put everything together over the weekend at the Big Ten Championship and finished third in the 14-team field — the Wildcats’ best showing in the conference tournament since 2017.

On the heels of the weekend’s performance,the Wildcats were selected Wednesday to compete in the NCAA Regionals.

NU’s total of 897 put them 14 strokes out of first place, which Illinois claimed by one stroke over Iowa with a 19-over 883. The Cats put four golfers in the individual top 25, led by sophomore John Driscoll III, whose three-day total of 221 tied for sixth.

A windy first round greeted the squad on Friday. NU shot 21-over collectively and joined every team but Penn State and Maryland in recording its worst round of the weekend.

Despite this, Driscoll III parlayed birdies on the 16th and 18th holes into a 71, giving him a one-stroke edge over the Hawkeyes’ Alex Schaake for first place. Driscoll III was the only golfer in the 70-player field to shoot under par in the first round.

Sophomore James Imai rode a solid front nine to a 78, tying for 29th. Senior Eric McIntosh and graduate student Varun Chopra both carded 80s, while junior David Nyfjäll added an 83. The Cats ended the first 18 holes in a three-way tie with Ohio State and the Terrapins for fifth place.

In the second round, the Cats withstood slight regression from Driscoll III to move into a tie with Michigan State for third place. This was in large part due to wholesale turnarounds from McIntosh and Nyfjäll, both of whom turned in 72s to move into the top 30. Nyfjäll was particularly sharp on the front nine, reeling off a trio of birdies on the third, fourth and fifth holes. McIntosh also scattered five birdies throughout his second round.

Driscoll III went without a birdie on the front nine and finished with a 75, dropping him into a tie for fourth among individuals. Imai and Chopra both replicated their first-round performances, shooting 78 and 80, respectively.

It was Imai’s turn to shine in the final round. The sophomore fired NU’s lowest round of the weekend, a 70, on the strength of a bogey-free back nine. The round tied Imai with McIntosh, who closed with a 74, and two other golfers for 16th.

Nyfjäll produced a second straight 72 to finish in a tie for 20th, making up for a double bogey on the par-4 10th by birdieing the eighth, ninth and 11th. Driscoll III closed with another 75, while Chopra added an 81 to finish in a tie for 62nd.

The Cats’ strong coda was rewarded with a berth in the NCAA Regionals, which will occur in Stillwater, Okla. from May 17-19.

NU, the No. 11 seed, will compete to advance to the NCAA Championships in Scottsdale, Ariz. against 12 other teams: Oklahoma State, Illinois, Auburn, SMU, Notre Dame, Alabama, Baylor, Sam Houston, Little Rock, Mississippi, College of Charleston and Middle Tennessee.

They finished eighth in their last trip to the NCAA Regionals in 2019 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

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Twitter: @pandres2001

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