Northwestern came out hot. Paced by junior Ryan Lumsden’s 67 (the best round by a Northwestern male golfer at the NCAA Tournament since 2000), the Wildcats were leading the field by three strokes after the completion of Friday’s first round of the NCAA Tournament. 35th-seeded Northwestern looked like locks to make the first cut, an upset of itself, and potentially even advance to the match play quarterfinals.
But on Saturday, things fell apart. The Wildcats carded a 20-over day, with each golfer putting up a score of at least 76. Thanks to their struggles, Northwestern fell all the way to 19th, needing a resurgent Sunday to make up lost ground and get into the top 15 to qualify past the first cut. And they just barely missed out, putting together the best team round of the late Sunday session at 8-over, but finishing two strokes behind 15th place North Carolina. First year Eric McIntosh, playing his first round of the tournament, and senior Sam Triplett, whose overall score of 3-over qualified him to continue individually, each carded even par 72s to lead the Wildcats.
Unfortunately, though Triplett’s career will continue for at least one more day, Sunday brought a disappointing end to the fabulous career of Dylan Wu. Wu, whose performance at the Columbus regional was one of the main reasons for Northwestern’s advancement to the final stage of the NCAA Tournament, is undoubtedly one of the best golfers in Northwestern history. The two-time First Team All-Big Ten and former All American finished his junior season with the third-lowest scoring average in team history (Luke Donald takes first and second in that category) and earned a career-high third place finish at this year’s Big Ten Championships. The Wildcats will certainly miss him.
Despite the disappointing finish to the season, the program certainly broke new ground this season. It was the first time they had advanced past the regional round since 2011, and the 16th place finish is their highest since 2000. Wu and Triplett are moving on, but with the other four golfers who competed in this year’s tournament each finding some success at the highest level, the Northwestern program has something to build on.