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Northwestern freshman Matt Fitzpatrick Qualifies For British Open

Starting the final day of the 2013 U.S. Open just two shots back of third-round leader Phil Mickelson and competing on a course well-suited to his talents, Luke Donald squandered possibly his best opportunity to date at closing in on major championship title No. 1 with a mediocre and mistake-filled round of 75.

Well, the Northwestern alum will have another crack at breaking through that barrier in two weeks at the Open Championship—played at Muirfield in Scotland—and he won't be the only Wildcat there.

Incoming NU freshman Matt Fitzpatrick qualified for the 153rd rendition of golf's oldest championship on Tuesday, as his 1-under-par 141 total over 36 holes at Local Final Qualifying stamped his ticket to Muirfield.

Played at a difficult Gullane No. 1 course, the qualifier called for a combination of talent and mettle to pass on through and Fitzpatrick brought just that.

The Brit came out strong in the morning round of the event with a 2-under-par 69, a sub-70 score that put him in tie for third place heading into the afternoon stretch. The 18-year-old then continued to defy his youth, pasting together a 72 in tough conditions over the final 18 holes and possibly playing his way into the Open Championship.

Indeed, the course and the crippling pressure of a major championship qualifier knocked down the competition, and, with three spots up for grabs, Fitzpatrick's 1-under 141 was enough to post a tied for second place finish and earn the youngster a position in the field at Muirfield.

For NU this is the third time in seven years that an active player on the squad will compete in one of golf's four most important championships, with Dillon Dougherty competing at the Masters in 2006 and Eric Chun making his way to St. Andrews for the Open Championship in 2010.

Looking toward the past isn't so important in this case though. In fact, Fitzpatrick's foray into the Scottish terrain re-affirms the Cats' future. At the time of Fitzpatrick's signing back in November, the Brit was the 11th-ranked amateur golfer in the entire world and No. 2 on the planet among amateur golfers aged 18 or younger. Coach Pat Goss called Fitzpatrick the most significant golfer the team had signed since the aforementioned Donald and staked his belief in the 18-year-old producing for the team right from his opening swing in his freshman season.

Yet recruiting, as any person who follows collegiate athletics knows, can often pack on the hype and lead to a loss of perspective as the process heats up. Wild visions of grandeur from fans and reporters alike only serve to facilitate empty promise from athletes after they actually launch themselves into the competitive fire of the college level.

Fitzpatrick, though, is hardly showing the signs of a fall-off. The highly-touted recruit remains one of the top amateurs in the world, marking in at 14th on the latest World Amateur Golf Rankings standings, and has now qualified for one of the four greatest events in all of golf. Pretty solid stuff for somebody who is yet to step foot on a college campus (as an enrolled student at least).

So far, Goss appears validated in recruiting Fitzpatrick, even if such a happening was unlikely to foster many questions. With NU coming off a disappointing season in which the steady play of All-American Jack Perry could not carry the team to the NCAA Championships, the acquisition of a world-beater in Fitzpatrick is the element that might push the Cats over the top.

For the 18-year-old, his focus is more likely on the Open Championship than the upcoming college season. Qualifying for the event is one thing, but performing admirably in such a large environment is a whole different animal.

Fitzpatrick will start that quest on Thursday, July 18th, but no matter what he shoots in his first start at a major championship, Goss and his staff are impatiently anticipating what such a young player can do for NU.