Northwestern finished in third place as a team this week at the 18-team Cle Elum regional, earning their seventh consecutive NCAA Championships bid.
The 16th-ranked Wildcats shot even-par over three rounds to safely finish in the top six and enter the field that will compete in the final leg of the season. Top overall seed USC dominated the region at 20-under, while UCF was the final team to advance out of the region at 10-over.
The ‘Cats got off to a blistering start in the first round of the regionals on Monday, carding a 4-under round that set the team up nicely in second place. Senior Stephanie Lau shot a 4-under 68 to lead the team, and freshman Kelly Sim added a 2-under round of 70. Brooke Riley also found herself under par after the first round after shooting a 71 to join the former pair in the top-15.
Tuesday’s second round wasn’t as kind to Northwestern, as the team posted a 16-over performance. But due to the difficult conditions that limited the entire field, NU only fell to fifth place, remaining in place to qualify for another NCAA Championships berth. Sim led the team with a 1-over round, and no Wildcat shot worse than 6-over.
Northwestern only needed to remain within the top six to qualify, but the team exceeded expectations, shooting all the way up to third on the final day of play. Brooke Riley’s regional-best 65 guided NU to a third place finish in the region. As a team, Northwestern shot 10-under (best of any team on the day) and cruised to another NCAA Championships berth, comfortably among the top 24 teams in the country.
Brooke Riley aka "The Closer"— Northwestern Golf (@NUGolf_Live) May 8, 2019
Riley shot a 7-under in the final round of the Cle Elum Regional Wednesday to help the ’Cats punch their ticket to the NCAA Championships! #B1GCats x #GoCats pic.twitter.com/Qj9VV7fafq
NU will be joined by a host of elite golf programs in the Championships, with eight of the top ten teams in the country qualifying. The field is unsurprisingly loaded, and the team will have quite a battle ahead of them. They’ll be joined by last year’s champion Arizona, as well as fellow favorites USC, Texas, Duke, and Stanford. The latter eliminated Northwestern in the quarterfinals last year.
In 2018, Northwestern shot 21-over in the stroke play portion of the competition to finish in fourth and qualify for the match play stage. In the quarterfinal round, the team was ousted by the Cardinal 3-2-0. In 2017, top-seeded Northwestern was defeated by Arizona State in the final 3-1-1.
The Championships will take place from May 16-22 at the Blessings Golf Course in Fayetteville, Arkansas.