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Men’s Golf: Observations from a day at the Windon Memorial Classic

Men’s Golf: Observations from a day at the Windon Memorial Classic
(Lauren Duquette/Daily Senior Staffer)

Underneath the American flag and flag with the club’s logo, a purple-and-white Northwestern “N” flew over North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Illinois as the 20th annual Windon Memorial Classic began Sunday.

After completing two rounds on the first day of action, the Wildcats are in fourth place with a score of 2-over as a team and are lead by junior Dylan Wu, who finished the day tied for fifth, shooting 3-under in 36 holes.

The course at the North Shore Country Club hosted one U.S. Open in 1933, as well as the Western Open and the U.S. Amateur twice.

The tournament, which is free and open to the public, had an informal feel to it. There were no rope lines, meaning spectators were free to get close to the action — as long as they watch out for any stray balls. With sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s and 80s for much of the day, numerous purple-clad spectators came out to the course.

Players are responsible for carrying their own bags and report their scores to volunteers every three holes. The only people responsible for enforcing the rules are a few rules officials roving in golf carts spread over the 7,103 yard course.

On the manicured course, the primary sounds are of the thwack of drivers hitting golf balls, the slightly quieter sound of iron shots and the faint roar of occasional airplanes flying overhead.

The players are primarily competing against the course and not each other, meaning there is little antagonism shown to the other competitors in the three-person pairings. When Purdue’s Austin Eoff sunk a long iron shot for a birdie on the 10th hole of the first round, junior Dylan Wu acknowledged, “that was a sick shot.” Graduate transfer Conor Richardson was oddly paired with his former roommate from Florida, and the two were chatting throughout the round.

But just because the players are not in direct competition with one another does not mean passions could not be inflamed, as many players became visibly frustrated after bad shots or near misses. With one round remaining in the tournament, those feelings could be magnified tomorrow.

The third and final round of the tournament begins Monday morning.

Northwestern alum Matt Fitzpatrick qualifies for Ryder Cup

Northwestern alum Matt Fitzpatrick qualifies for Ryder Cup
(Source: NU Athletics)

Ex-Wildcat golfer Matt Fitzpatrick has qualified for the prestigious Ryder Cup tournament, he announced Sunday on Twitter.

The 21-year-old Fitzpatrick is one of nine golfers to automatically qualify for Team Europe in the once-every-two-years match play tournament, which will take place at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota at the end of September. Team Europe’s remaining three golfers will be announced at a later date.

Fitzpatrick made waves earlier this season after his performance at The Masters, where he tied for seventh place with an even 288. In his short Northwestern career, Fitzpatrick helped the Cats win two of five events in fall 2013 before departing to play professionally in Jan. 2014.

Team Europe has won the last three Ryder Cup tournaments and six of the last seven dating back to 2002.

Fall Sports Preview – Men’s Golf: Northwestern enters fall season with lineup questions

Fall Sports Preview – Men’s Golf: Northwestern enters fall season with lineup questions
(Daily file photo by Nathan Richards)

Northwestern is looking to build on a promising, if inconsistent, 2015-16 season, which ended with seventh-place finish in an NCAA Regional tournament, two spots short of qualifying for the NCAA Championship.

The team’s biggest star is junior Dylan Wu, who led the Wildcats in scoring average, top-10 and top-20 finishes. His two third-place finishes were the best of any NU golfer last year.

Wu and junior Sam Triplett are the only returning upperclassmen on the team, as the only other Cats to play in all 11 tournaments last year, Josh Jamieson and Andrew Whalen, both graduated in 2016.

This leaves coach David Inglis with a wide open roster coming into the year, as five golfers compete for the team in each tournament, and while Wu is almost certain to compete in each tournament, the other four spots will likely be wide open.

Along with Triplett, sophomores Ryan Lumsden, Luke Miller and Pete Griffith will compete with graduate transfer Conor Richardson and the incoming freshman class for playing time.

Of the trio of sophomores, Lumsden turned in the most impressive performance last year, finishing tied for seventh at the Puerto Rico Classic and also finishing second on the team in scoring average on the year.

Miller and Griffith will need to show improvement if they hope to lock down consistent starting spots this year. Miller played in six tournaments last year, and his best finish was tied for 40th, while Griffith participated in five, with his best finish at 24th place.

NU’s seventh-place regionals finish last year was largely due to a terrible second round where the Cats shot the 13th-best round in the 14 team field, essentially ending their chance at NCAAs qualification.

Although NU’s regionals qualification in 2015-16 marked a major improvement after the team failed to qualify in 2014-15, the team is still searching for its first NCAAs qualification since the 2010-11 season and the first such berth under Inglis.

With a year of experience under their belts, this may just be the year for the young Cats.

Dylan Wu, volunteer assistant Tim Streng qualify for U.S. Open sectional qualifier

Dylan Wu, volunteer assistant Tim Streng qualify for U.S. Open sectional qualifier
(Daily file photo by Nathan Richards)

The U.S. Open, one of golf’s four major championships, plays host to golf’s biggest stars every year. But it fills out its field each year in a unique way — with open qualifying tournaments all over the country that attract the best amateur players and club pros in America to play for a shot at glory. Last year, 22 golfers qualified for the 156-player field through these local qualifying tournaments.

On Monday, two representatives from Northwestern’s men’s golf team put themselves a step closer to the U.S. Open. Sophomore Dylan Wu, who was recently named to the All-Big Ten second team, finished tied for third at the local qualifier hosted at the Village Links in Glen Ellyn, shooting a 2-under 70 in a single round to secure one of the five sectional qualifying spots from the tournament.

However, Wu was bested by one of his coaches on the day. Volunteer assistant coach Tim Streng shot a 3-under 69 to finish second at the qualifier and book a ticket to the sectional qualifying round. Streng was a decorated golfer at Western Illinois and is no stranger to the U.S. Open qualification process — in 2008, he finished just 3 strokes out from securing a spot in the U.S. Open at a sectional qualifier.

Wu and Streng will play two rounds on June 6 at a to-be-announced location for their chance at the U.S. Open. And while the numbers are against them making an appearance at Oakmont this summer — last year, nearly 600 golfers qualified for the sectional rounds — they will get their shots at one of the most prestigious events in golf.

Pro golfer Luke Donald returns to practice at Northwestern

Luke Donald, who was a four-time All-Big Ten golfer at Northwestern from 1998 to 2001, returned to Evanston this weekend to practice at the Wildcats’ indoor facility, sharing the above photo on Instagram.

Donald turned pro in 2001 and is tied for the program’s second-lowest 54-hole score since 1990, scoring a 202 in the 2001 U.S. Collegiate Championships. In 1999, Donald won the individual NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships, breaking the scoring record previously held by Tiger Woods. He was also named a first-team All-American in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

Professionally, Donald was named PGA Player of the Year in 2011 and battled back and forth for the No. 1 spot in the world with Rory McIlroy in 2012. His best finishes in a major were ties for third in the 2005 Masters and 2006 PGA Championship.

Director of Golf and Player Development Pat Goss also tweeted about Donald’s return as the golfer visited The Glen Club in Glenview, Illinois earlier Saturday.

Dylan Wu named to All-Big Ten second team

After taking sixth overall as an individual at the Big Ten Men’s Golf Championships over the weekend, sophomore Dylan Wu was named to the All-Big Ten second team today.

Wu has been Northwestern’s best player this season, leading the team in stroke average and notching a pair of third-place finishes at the Windon Memorial and most recently at The Boilermaker to close the regular season. He ended his Sunday round in the Big Tens with two birdies in his last three holes to shoot 69, helping NU to a sixth-place team finish in the tournament.

Wu’s consistently solid play all season and strong finish to the year clearly impressed the Big Ten coaches, who select six players apiece for the conference’s first and second teams. Now, Wu and his teammates will wait to see if their performance this year impressed the NCAA Tournament selection committee enough to earn a bid and continue their season.