Winning is never easy in the game of golf, but that long, agonizing wait for that maiden first place finish makes victory all the more satisfying.
Northwestern felt the brighter side of this concept Sunday. In French Lick, Ind., the Wildcats captured their first ever Big Ten Championships title, finishing the tournament as co-champions with Purdue. This was after a long history of futility in the event for NU, as the team failed to take home the Big Ten crown in its first 31 tries.
The win served as another first as well: the opening victory of coach Emily Fletcher's tenure at the university. Fletcher came to NU in 2007 and had been able to get the team close to that elusive first win, but came up with sixth third place finishes and a single runner-up showing instead.
That all changed on Sunday, as Fletcher not only earned her first win, she got it at one of the most important tournaments of the entire season.
It was a satisfying performance in many ways. The Wildcats won by the hardest method possible, grabbing the lead from the begin and fighting not to relinquish it from there. The team was six shots ahead after day one, kept it at five after the second round and, despite a hard-charging Purdue squad, held on just enough to finish in a tie with the Boilermakers at the end.
The tournament also marked one of the more prolific team efforts from NU. All six starters finished in the top 25, with three in the top 10 alone. Even Devon Brown, who had been struggling all season with a swing change she implemented in August, found her game rejuvenated. The junior kept the high scores off her card, stamping together two rounds of 74 and a 75 to finish in a tie for 7th, good enough for second place on the team.
This also marked the first team win while Lauren Weaver has been at NU. The senior was one of Fletcher's first key recruits, competing on the club for the majority of the coach's six-year experience here. Weaver, almost as much as Fletcher, has seen all of the work put in to finally get this team into the winners' circle.
Overall, NU heads into the stretch run of the season with as much confidence as it's had all year. NCAA Regionals have not been announced yet, but the Cats will qualify without any question. Those will be a few weeks away and Fletcher would obviously like to see her team stay in that kind of form for that event.
If they do, the team will achieve another first under Fletcher: making it to the NCAA Championships.
That is all in due time though. For now, NU's demons in the Big Ten Championships are finally gone. And that more than three-decade long anticipation for victory certainly made the first one that much more sweet.