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Men’s and women’s golf preview: ‘Cats eager to get back into the swing of things

The links are calling.

Pepperdine Triangular Golf Tournament Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images

The Wildcats are itching to get back out onto the course after a short but successful fall season. Let’s chip into what each of the squads have in store for the spring.

Men’s Golf

Coach David Inglis and the men are looking to continue building upon a fall that saw them rack up four top-five finishes in five tournaments, with one win and two second-place finishes. The goal is to make a return to the NCAA Regionals after missing out in 2021-22, and after that, the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2018.

Graduate student David Nyfjäll leads the way for the ‘Cats in what is likely his last season in Evanston. In his time wearing the purple, Nyfjäll has earned a plethora of honors, including Big Ten Freshman of the Year (2018-2019), First Team All-Big Ten (2018-2019), three Big Ten Preseason Honoree selections (2019-20, 2021, 2022-23) and GCAA Division 1 PING All-Region team. He’ll lead the way this season as he looks to lower his already impressive 71.77 stroke average.

Another impact golfer for Northwestern should be senior John Driscoll. He joins Nyfjäll on the Big Ten Men’s Golfers to Watch list as his quest to propel the Wildcats to a title renews. He has improved year over year, lowering his stroke average by over half a stroke between 2019-20 and 2021. The team hopes this trend will continue.

Rounding out the trio of ‘Cats receiving preseason honors is Cameron Adam. The Scottish sophomore boasts an impressive junior career, one that features a ranking of second for European U-16s. His season is already off to a strong start as he contributed heavily to Northwestern’s Windon Memorial Classic win in the fall.

Additional expected contributors for Inglis’ squad include senior James Imai, who received preseason Big Ten honors in 2021 and averages 73.67 strokes per round; junior Chris Zhang who helped out in the fall as well; and the first-year trio of Akshay Anand, Daniel Svärd and Ethan Tseng, all of whom bring impressive resumes of their own to Evanston.

The team starts the spring component of the season off with the Big Ten Match Play Championship this upcoming weekend in Palm Coast, Florida. Northwestern, thanks to its status in the fall Golfstat rankings, holds the top seed, meaning it will take on nine-seed Maryland Friday in the first round of the single elimination tournament. After that, the Wildcats head to La Quinta, California to continue escaping the Evanston cold and compete in The Prestige tournament. After that, there are four more tournaments before the Big Ten Championship In totality, the spring lineup features about 11,309.9 miles of travel, so by the end of it, the Wildcats will be extremely familiar with the intricacies of the U.S.

Women’s Golf

The women’s team has a slightly longer wait to start its spring season, but it’s equally ready to hit the links. Emily Fletcher’s squad will try to improve upon a fall that saw one top-five and two top-eight finishes as it strives for its 13th straight NCAA Regionals appearance. The four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year has the team to do it with too.

Lauryn Nguyen, reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year, is the team’s headliner. Her first season along the shores of Lake Michigan was capped off with a sixth place finish at the Big Ten Championship. That’s not to mention an impressive list of junior accolades that is longer than a par five at Erin Hills. She was also named to the Second Team All-Big Ten in her first year.

If All-Big Ten honors are in the discussion, Jennifer Cai and Kelly Sim would like a word. Cai earned a First Team nod after a season that saw her finish third at Big Ten Championships and come up with a clutch head-to-head victory in the B1G Match Play Championship finals.

Sim was named to an All-Big Ten Team for her fourth straight season last year, as she earned Second Team honors. Her season featured a Golfer of the Week award after going undefeated at the Match Play Championships. She is also currently in good form with two top-13 finishes in the fall tournaments.

The spring season tees off with the UCF Challenge in Orlando on Feb. 5. After that concludes, they’ll stay on the east coast for their next two tournaments to close out February, the Moon Golf Invitational and the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate. Only two tournaments remain for them once March rolls around, and then its time to drive into the Big Ten Championships and beyond.