Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Women’s Golf: Northwestern places fourth at NCAA East Lansing Regional, earns championship berth

Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal
Junior Lauryn Nguyen putts the ball. Nguyen was named to the All-Big Ten First Team for the second year in a row.

Making the turn at the NCAA East Lansing Regional, fifth-place Northwestern thoughtfully traversed the last nine holes at the Forest Akers West Golf Course Wednesday. Coach Emily Fletcher’s squad stood mere strokes from dropping to sixth place in a tournament where only the top five teams qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

“You know that cutoff is there, but (it’s about) trying not to let that distract you from just doing what you need to do,” senior Jennifer Cai said. “Just playing the best shot that you can in front of you. You can’t really do anything else about what other people are doing.”

The Wildcats delivered, tallying seven birdies over the back half of the course to secure a fourth-place result and their 10th-ever NCAA Championships berth in program history.

No. 2 seed NU finished at 3-under after 54 holes and outlasted competition behind three top-20 individual performances. Leading the ’Cats was junior and All-Big Ten First Team honoree Lauryn Nguyen, who logged her fourth top-five result of the season, tying for fifth with a 5-under 211 (70-71-70).

For Nguyen, a patient mentality has propelled her to become one of the Big Ten’s top performers.

“My game has come a long way,” Nguyen said. “My mental game has gotten a lot stronger. Just not blowing up after one bogey or even a double, and knowing that everything’s gonna be okay and that I have a game that I can trust.”

Nguyen and Cai led the way for NU on day one of the regional tournament, both logging a 2-under 70 to help the ’Cats jump out to a third-place start. Cai, NU’s other All-Big Ten First Team awardee, kicked off the round with three birdies over the first five holes.

Senior Jieni Li and sophomore Jiayi Wang both recorded an even-par 72.

Tuesday’s second round witnessed Cai and Nguyen pace the squad once again, hitting a 2-under 70 and 1-under 71, respectively. The all-conference first team duo combined for 15 birdies over the first two rounds, pushing NU past Pepperdine into second place and just two shots behind first place USC.

Wang, who made her NCAA Regional debut, stayed consistent with a 1-over 73 on day two. 

The ’Cats struggled to maintain momentum on the final day. Cai tallied a 6-over 78 — an eight-stroke regression from her previous round. Li also regressed after shooting a 4-over 76 during her last 18 holes.

However, with Nguyen’s 2-under 70 and freshman Ashley Yun’s 1-under 71, NU held onto its top-five position and booked a coveted trip to the NCAA Championships.

Following Nguyen’s top-five finish was Wang in 15th place and Cai, who tied for 16th.

This year marks the ’Cats second consecutive trip to the national championship and their ninth trip since 2013. Last season, NU failed to make it past the first stroke play cutoff of the championship, placing in the lower half of the 30-team field after 54 holes.

Despite last year’s postseason disappointment, Nguyen said this season’s squad has learned from its past experiences.

“Having that familiarity with the feeling of playing in an NCAA Championship from last year, I feel like that does hold a lot of comfort,” Nguyen said. “This year is really a year that we can attack, and I think the team’s really feeling that energy.”

The ’Cats enjoyed an impressive regular season that included two team tournament victories, two individual tournament victories and a plethora of conference awards. 

Fletcher earned her second straight and sixth career Big Ten Coach of the Year honor while Yun was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year — marking the third consecutive year an NU golfer has earned the award.

The ’Cats will look to cap their season off with a strong performance at the NCAA Championships, which begins May 17. The postseason tournament will also be the last for the team’s seniors — including Cai, who has one last chance to help carry the team to unprecedented heights.

“I’m just super grateful that I have another opportunity to play,” Cai said. “The team and I have worked too hard to let our foot off the gas now, so we’re going to give it our best shot and make the most out of it.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @lucaskim_15

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Women’s Golf: Northwestern places third at Big Ten Tournament, named No. 2 seed at NCAA East Lansing Regional

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