Both teams could make some noise in May.
Northwestern golf is gaining momentum as postseason play begins. On April 24, the women’s team tied for third out of 14 teams at the Big Ten Championships in Pittsburgh. That same weekend, the men traveled to Columbus and also placed third in a 13-team field at the Kepler Intercollegiate.
With their high conference finish, the women earned an at-large bid to the Regional Championships. It marked Northwestern’s 12th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
Following a series of grueling invitationals in which the women faced ample top-25 opponents, the ‘Cats entered the conference championships battle-tested. That proved to be crucial early on, as Northwestern started slowly. The Wildcats — ranked 37th in the nation as of April 27 according to GolfStat.com — shot 289 as a team and tied for sixth after the first round.
The team immediately rebounded with a 281 score on the championship’s second day. NU tied for the round’s best score with No. 18 Michigan and catapulted itself into a tie for second place with Michigan State. Sophomore Jennifer Cai played a huge role in that comeback, shooting four under par on the day. Cai was one of just four players in the field of 84 to shoot under 70 that round.
After a tight third round, Northwestern tied with Ohio State for third with an overall score of +12. The ‘Cats finished just seven strokes behind Michigan, who took home the title. Cai finished third individually with a -2 score. First-year Lauren Nguyen joined Cai on the All-Championship team, shooting two over par to place her in a tie for sixth. Senior Kelly Sim shot +8, which tied for 24th in the conference.
On April 27, Northwestern was selected as the seventh seed in the Stanford Regional. Play will begin on May 9. The team will look to bounce back from its rough finish last year, when it failed to qualify for the National Championships for the first time since 2012.
For the men’s squad, graduate student Varun Chopra led the way with a second-place finish in a field of 81 golfers. His 54-hole total was 205, good for a score of -11. He saved his best for last, shooting 68 on the final day. Senior David Nyfjall also played well, working his one-round score down from 73 to 70 in the third round to place 14th.
The third-place finish was a solid one for the 44th-ranked Wildcats, who finished behind No. 19 Illinois and No. 27 Ohio State. Notably, NU defeated Indiana and Michigan State, both top-60 teams vying with Northwestern for the Big Ten’s at-large regional spots.
The men’s team will head to French Lick, Ind. this weekend to participate in its Big Ten Championship. Illinois and No. 25 Purdue are the favorites to win the title, though a good showing could net Northwestern its sixth straight regional berth.