Northwestern enters postseason with confidence
Saturday, April 19, 2014
For the Northwestern women's golf team, 2013 was about making history, and 2014 is about making the next step.
The team claimed a share of the Big Ten title with Purdue after shooting a 20-over 884 at the Big Ten Championship last year. It was the first conference title in program history and led to a 15th-place finish at the NCAA Championship.
But the Wildcats are less focused on that feat this year. The team, ranked No.12 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, is more impressed with its showing against some of the nation's best teams this year.
"Just having the feeling of winning was amazing for the team," junior Hana Lee said. "For me, personally, it was maybe even the wins at the Hurricane and Liz Murphey (that brought more confidence). We played against really good teams at the Liz Murphey and we won.
"I know it was just one day, but just knowing we could play well in those same conditions as everyone else, gave us that boost of confidence as a team. Going into the Big Ten Championship, having that mentality that we can win will help us tremendously."
The team shot a program-record 11-under 277 in the 18-hole stroke play portion of the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic. The Wildcats beat out the runner-up Arkansas Razorbacks by 14 strokes, taking the top spot in a field that included 11 top-50 teams. Lee was the medalist.
The Liz Murphey was the second win of the spring for Northwestern. It was also the fourth tournament in which the team has played against Southern California, the defending national champions.
"It's a measuring stick for us," said head coach Emily Fletcher. "Clearly, it's encouraging to our kids when we can go play an event with a team that's been No. 1 in the country and had such an amazing record as USC. It gives our kids a lot of encouragement and confidence that we're doing the right things."
Moving from one of the country's good teams to one of its great teams is a goal that Fletcher keeps in mind. Winning the Big Ten title in back-to-back years could be a major step in making that a reality.
"I feel really good about our team and that state of our game going into Big Tens," Fletcher said. "When you look at the Big Ten, Ohio State has been really tough this spring, Michigan State has played well."
Fletcher may tout the strength of her conference competitors, but it's her squad that enters the April 25-27 on the French Lick (Ind.) Resort's Dye Course as the most highly ranked team.
To take the next step, Lee and her young teammates – there is only one senior on roster – have studied USC and the country's best.
"Playing with them, I realized that they stay consistent," Lee said. "Your short game needs to be good to maintain a good score and keep playing well, and these teams do that. Ballstriking wise, everybody is decent, but it's the short game that stands out with these teams. They know how to two-putt from long distances and make birdies putts, and that's what makes them good."