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Golf: Solid performances left little to be desired

Not a bad start to the season.

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The Evanston cold isn’t for everyone. Apparently, this includes the men’s and women’s golf teams. Both squads channeled their inner snowbirds and headed south for winter, with the men heading to Palm Coast, Florida, and the women enjoying nearby Orlando. Maybe recapping their weekends will transmit some of the Florida warmth. Worth a shot.

Men’s Golf

It seems almost sacrilegious to hold a Big Ten event in Florida, but nevertheless, that’s where Big Ten Match Play took place over Feb. 3-4. Nine teams competed, but incoming one-seed Northwestern only faced off against four opponents: Rutgers, Maryland, Minnesota and Michigan. The ‘Cats went 3-1 in the process, but let’s break down how they got there.

Friday morning vs. Rutgers

The Wildcats started the weekend off against New Brunswick’s finest. Fortunately for Northwestern, the Scarlet Knights are better at swinging swords than golf clubs. This matchup served as a nice warmup for the ‘Cats before the tournament officially began. Nine holes were all that was in store as the field waited for Michigan and Penn State to finish the play-in, but it was enough for the ‘Cats. They won three of the five matchups, with David Nyfjäll (3&2), Cameron Adam (3&1) and Daniel Svärd (1UP) all picking up wins. After this early morning win over six-seed Rutgers, the course was set for a quarterfinal matchup against nine-seed Maryland.

Friday afternoon vs. Maryland

A quick lunch break refreshed the Wildcats to take on the Terrapins. They won 3-2 again, with Nyfjäll and Svärd (both 1UP) earning their second wins of the day. James Imai also joined the winners circle with a dominant performance, winning with five holes left to play (6&5). Friday was a success overall for the ‘Cats, but it was time to rest up for five-seed Minnesota first thing Saturday.

Saturday morning vs. Minnesota

Things were tighter than Northwestern would’ve liked on Saturday morning. Minnesota proved to be tough competition, winning two of the head to head matchups over Imai and Adam. Nyfjäll (4&2) and John Driscoll (2UP) managed wins, but Svärd’s tie put affairs into the hands of margin of victory. Fortunately for the ‘Cats, their two victories were dominant, as they won by a total of six holes while the Golden Gophers only won by one hole each time. This margin of +4 was enough to advance the Wildcats to a finals matchup with the Wolverines.

Saturday afternoon vs. Michigan

All good things must come to an end, and that was true for the Wildcats’ run in the Match Play tournament. Sometimes you have to be the evil stepmother in the Cinderella story, and unfortunately that role befell Northwestern. Eight-seed Michigan won the finals 3-2 in true underdog fashion, taking down Imai, Adam and Driscoll in the process. The Swedish duo of Nyfjäll and Svärd stayed undefeated on the weekend, but their efforts weren’t enough to propel the ‘Cats to victory.

A win would have been nice, but second place is more than respectable for Northwestern. The team will have the opportunity to bounce back in about a week and a half’s time when it competes in the Prestige Feb. 20-22.

Women’s Golf

Stroke play was in the cards for the women as they competed amongst 17 other teams at the UCF Challenge. They teed off the spring season well too, finishing third in the field while shooting 37-under as a team over the three rounds. This low score left them five out of the lead and 10 strokes clear of fourth. They were even leading after Day Two, showing that the Wildcats aren’t messing around this year.

A strong finish can be expected when four out of five of the team’s golfers end up in the top 20. Lauryn Nguyen lead the way for the ‘Cats, finishing tied for sixth. She posted a score of 11-under for the tournament, including a 67 in round one and a 64 in round two, which ties for the lowest round in program history.

Dianna Lee was right behind her in eighth after going 10-under. Lee managed to go under par in all three rounds, which is always recommended. Jieni Li also finished well in the 96-golfer field when she tied for 11th at eight-under. She joined Lee in the under-par-every-day club in the process. The final Wildcat to finish in the top 20 was Kelly Sim at five-under, posting a 66 and 68 in her first two rounds.

The ‘Cats will be back in Florida for their next tournament as well when they compete in the Moon Golf Invitational Feb. 19-21.