The Northwestern men’s team will play two tournaments in one week at two historic golf courses, and visit one of the world’s largest sporting events in between. And it won’t even have to leave town to do it all.
To make things even better, the Wildcats are coming off a season-opening victory at the Inverness Intercollegiate. They beat Florida State, Kent State and North Texas by 11 shots on Sept. 17-18. Northwestern junior Jack Perry earned his first collegiate victory at Inverness, shooting 2-over 215 to share medalist honors with Kent State’s Kevin Miller. Northwestern freshman Andrew Whalen finished third in his collegiate debut, one shot off the lead.
Northwestern, located in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, begins play today in its own Windon Intercollegiate at Skokie Country Club, site of Gene Sarazen’s 1922 U.S. Open victory, in Glencoe, Ill.
The Windon ends Monday, the same day that Ryder Cup week begins at nearby Medinah Country Club. The Wildcats’ next event, the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Intercollegiate, begins the same day as the Ryder Cup’s final round. All three courses are located within 60 miles of each other. Teams are scheduled to attend the Ryder Cup on Saturday afternoon after practice rounds at Olympia Fields.
Northwestern head coach Pat Goss will pull double duty. He also coaches one of Europe’s leading men, Northwestern alum Luke Donald, and said he’ll split time between coaching his college team and his star pupil.
“I’ll be juggling a lot next week, for sure,” Goss said. “Tuesday through Friday I’ll be splitting my days between trying to put in some time with Luke and make sure he’s comfortable and ready to go for the Ryder Cup and then be with the team as we prepare for Olympia Fields.
“Typically, Ryder Cups, I don’t go to the competition very much. My biggest commitment will to be to spend enough time there Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday to make sure Luke is ready to play his best. For a coach, you’re much more in the background. It’s not like a regular event. You’re just there in case your player needs a little help.”
So, who will the Wildcats root for: their home country or their famous alum, who’s a regular visitor to the team’s practices? Allegiances won’t be an issue for assistant coach David Inglis, a former Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup player, or freshman Josh Jamieson of St. Andrews, Scotland. The rest of Northwestern’s roster is comprised of Americans, though.
“I think both of our coaches will root for Europe, because Pat is Luke’s teacher and David Inglis was a Walker Cupper,” Perry said, “but I think our team will root for America.”
Perry won at Inverness by devoting himself to the same facet of the game that propelled Donald to the No. 1 position in the Official World Golf Ranking: the short game. “I realized having a good short game is like having good insurance,” Perry said. Goss said Inverness was the first event where Perry was able to have a high finish despite not hitting the ball his best. “He’s learned to manage his game better and short game it so much better that he can compete when he’s not hitting it great,” Goss said.
A strong short game will be important in what promises to be a long, but fun, week.