Women’s Golf: No. 15 Northwestern places second at Big Ten Championship, dominates conference postseason awards


Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal

Sophomore Lauryn Nguyen putts the ball. Nguyen was named to the All-Big Ten First Team on Wednesday.

Lucas Kim, Development and Recruitment Editor

Fresh off two consecutive tournament victories and one of its best regular seasons to date, No. 15 Northwestern entered the 2023 Big Ten Championship with high expectations last weekend. 

The Wildcats, the only team in the conference nationally ranked in the top 20, fell behind early but then worked their way into a second-place finish with a 16-over 868. This year marked NU’s best result in the 14-team contest since placing second in 2017.

The first round saw every Cat finish above par as the team ended Day 1 at 11-over, good enough for a fourth-place tie with Wisconsin. Eventual champion Illinois got off to a six-stroke lead over then-second-place No. 24 Ohio State. 

Graduate student Kelly Sim, NU’s most experienced golfer, led the early charge, tying for 10th individually with a 1-over 72 during the first round.

Battling rainy conditions, the Cats bounced back in the next round.

NU finished nine shots better than the round prior with a 2-over 286, propelling the team into a third-place tie with No. 33 Maryland.

Sim continued her stellar play and carded a 2-under 69, becoming one of only three golfers in the tournament to hit below par in the second round. Junior Jennifer Cai, who placed third individually at last year’s Big Ten Championship, contributed with an even-par 71.

Still among the top teams, the Cats entered the final round only four strokes behind the first-place Buckeyes and three strokes behind second-place Illinois.

With momentum from the day prior, NU exhibited the consistency it has shown all year, hitting a 3-over 287 that tied for best score that round. This time, sophomore Lauryn Nguyen and junior Jieni Li stepped up, respectively tallying a 2-under 69 and 1-under 70.

Unfortunately for the Cats, Illinois also carded a 287, moving the team up from second place to capture the title. With Ohio State’s 10-over final round, NU took second place, three strokes behind the champions.

Every player in the Cats’ six-person lineup ranked in the top 30 individually. Sim, who entered the final round in third place, was the squad’s top performer and finished tied for sixth place. Nguyen finished one stroke behind with a 5-over 218 and tied for ninth. Following up were Li (+7) in 12th place and Cai (+13) in a tie for 13th.

NU concluded its season having placed top-three in five of its last six tournaments.

With their impressive performance this season, the Cats were the star of the show when the conference announced its postseason awards Wednesday.

Coach Emily Fletcher took her place at the top once again, earning her fifth Big Ten Coach of the Year honor in 15 seasons with NU. Fletcher previously won the award in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Freshman Dianna Lee received the other top honor, earning the Big Ten Freshman of the Year title after leading the team with two top-five finishes this year. Lee is the seventh Cat in program history to win the award, joining active players Nguyen and senior Irene Kim.

NU’s overwhelming presence on the All-Big Ten teams was more indicative of its superb play this season than any other award. Out of the eight conference players named to the All-Big Ten First Team, four are Cats: Lee, Li, Nguyen and Sim.

The only other time four NU players were named to the All-Big Ten First Team was 2016, when the team finished ninth at the NCAA Championships.

This is Sim’s fifth All-Big Ten appearance, having been named to the first team three times and the second team twice, and Nguyen’s second appearance after being named to the second team last year.

With postseason awards now in the past, the Cats now prepare for the NCAA Regionals. The team is the No. 3 seed in the Palm Beach Gardens Regional, which begins May 8. With a fifth-place finish or higher, NU would earn its first NCAA Championship appearance since 2019.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @lucaskim_15

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