It’s safe to say the emotional pendulum was swinging this week.
In just two weeks, Northwestern golf experienced both heartbreak and happiness. With a fourth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships in French Lick, Ind., the men’s team qualified for its sixth straight NCAA Regional appearance. Senior David Nyfjäll won the individual title. On the other end of the emotional spectrum, the women failed to advance out of the Stanford Region on May 11 after losing a tie-breaking playoff against Purdue for fourth place.
At Stanford, the No. 37 Wildcats were looking to earn the last of the four bids for the NCAA Championships in Scottsdale, Ariz. Top-ranked Stanford, No. 12 USC and No. 14 LSU pulled away early, but NU found itself in a huge pack of teams vying for the fourth spot. Northwestern, Princeton, No. 25 Kentucky, No. 24 Texas Tech, Purdue and Iowa State were all separated by just 11 strokes after two rounds. Sophomore Jieni Li led the way, entering the final day tied for sixth individually with an even-par.
With little room for error, the ‘Cats remained in the hunt for the final ticket to Scottsdale. First-year Lauryn Nguyen, sophomore Jennifer Cai and senior Kelly Sim all shot at par or better to keep pace with the Boilermakers and maintain a slight edge over the other contenders. The Big Ten rivals remained tied after three rounds, forcing a playoff.
But that’s where the run ended. Purdue took both ends of the two-hole playoff to earn the final championship berth in the region. To make matters worse for Northwestern, Li narrowly missed an individual bid after losing her own tiebreaker to Iowa State’s Taglao Jeeravivitaporn. The sophomore ended up third among non-advancing teams and tied for tenth overall, leading the ‘Cats with a -3 score. 2022 will mark the second straight year NU will miss the NCAA Championships after qualifying eight times in a row.
On the men’s side, hope is still alive. The 44th-ranked ‘Cats finished ahead of No. 25 Purdue and No. 27 Ohio State to take fourth place in the Big Ten. This postseason tilt was even tighter going into the final round – Purdue, NU, Maryland and Wisconsin were within four strokes of each other.
Nyfjäll made a huge difference. Trailing Illinois’s Adrien Dumont de Chassart by three strokes for the top individual spot, the star senior shot +3 on the final day to narrowly edge out Dumont de Chassart by a stroke for the conference title with an overall score of -1. Nyfjäll also helped the Wildcats edge out Wisconsin by a stroke for fourth place. He’s the first Wildcat to take home an individual conference crown since David Lipsky did so in 2010.
A few days later, the program was selected to the NCAA Regionals. NU will head to Columbus, Ohio as the eighth seed in its region to vie for a top-five finish and a national berth. The field includes No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 11 Georgia Tech and No. 14 Arkansas. Should the ‘Cats fail to advance, Nyfjäll should still be in contention for a national bid as an individual.
Northwestern will tee off on May 16, and the three-day regional will conclude on May 18.