It’s not often that a Northwestern sports team can call itself the only ever champion of a Big Ten Conference-wide event. The Wildcats’ women’s golf program can say just that, though, after finishing atop a field of 10 B1G squads at the Innisbrook Resort’s Island Course in Palm Harbor, Fla. earlier this week in the inaugural Women’s Big Ten Match Play Championship.
Kelly Sim led the way for the Wildcats, winning all three of her pairings against competitors from Penn State, Ohio State and Purdue, the three teams that NU faced off with in the tournament. Sim, who tied for third across the field in performance on Par 5 holes and tied for sixth-best on Par 4’s, wound up earning Big Ten Golfer of the Week honors for her efforts. Northwestern’s Lauryn Nguyen took two of her three pairings and birdied seven times throughout the weekend, tied for the second most in the field alongside teammate Jieni Li and five others.
The ‘Cats successful tournament got started on Monday, when they downed Penn State by a score of 3-1-2. Sim defeated French junior Mathilde Delavallade in her opening showdown, grabbing a three-hole lead through the first 10 holes of play before ultimately holding on to win by a one-up margin. Wins by NU’s Jennifer Cai and Jane Lu provided the two other victorious results needed for NU to take the overall contest.
Later that afternoon, NU took on Ohio State. The Buckeyes had soundly defeated Minnesota 5-1-0 earlier in the day, but were unable to keep up with the ‘Cats and wound up falling by a single result after darkness forced an early end to the contest following 14 holes of play. Nguyen was dominant, ending her match organically after building a five-hole lead with four holes to go. Northwestern’s Kelly Su was also decisive in her win, leading by four holes before darkness cut the match short. The slimmest victory that put the Wildcats into the final was Sim’s as she took a one-up lead on OSU’s Alexis Phadungmartvorakul on the final hole of competition.
The next day, the ‘Cats met the top-seeded Boilermakers in the championship round. The win was NU’s most decisive of the week, as the Wildcats took the title with a 4-2-0 score. There was no final hole drama in the title match, as all of the individual matchups were decided through 17 holes of play or fewer. Sim’s win was once again NU’s closest, as she knocked off PU’s Danielle du Toit after maintaining a two-hole lead through 17 holes of competition. Otherwise, Northwestern’s individual victories were more decisive, with Cai defeating Daniela Ballesteros by a margin of 3&2, Li taking down Sifat Sagoo by a margin of 5&4, and Nguyen dominating Thitapa Pakdeesettakul by a score of 6&5.
The Wildcats will now begin preparations for the Moon Golf Invitational at Suntree Country Club in Melbourne, Fla., which will tee off on February 13.