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Fall Sports Preview – Women’s Golf: After NCAAs heartbreak, many key golfers return

Fall Sports Preview – Women’s Golf: After NCAAs heartbreak, many key golfers return
(Daily file photo by Nathan Richards)

Of all 19 varsity sports teams at Northwestern, the women’s golf team may have suffered the most heartbreaking end to a season of any squad on campus last year.

Needing to finish in the top-8 after the fourth round of stroke play at the NCAA Championship in order to qualify for the team match play round of competition, the Wildcats came up a single stroke short of qualification, taking 1,167 strokes over the four days to Oregon’s 1,166 and heading home needing just more than what they turned in, the best season in school history.

Amid the heartbreak is one positive sign for this coming year — the entire starting lineup from last year’s team is back.

Junior and back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year Hannah Kim is back to wreak havoc on golf courses throughout the nation. In 2016, Kim set NU records for lowest single round score, lowest 54-hole score and lowest single-season stroke average. She currently holds the Cats’ record for career stroke average through her two seasons as well.

The second best single-season scoring average in NU history belongs to sophomore Stephanie Lau after she turned in nine top-20 finishes in 11 events her freshman year. She also holed the most important putt of the season for the Cats to ensure a split of the Big Ten Championship with Ohio State for the second straight year.

The third best single-season scoring average in NU history belongs to senior Kacie Komoto, who earned that mark last year and led the team in top-10 finishes last year with six.

The other two returning members of the starting lineup, junior Sarah Cho and sophomore Janet Mao, may not have a top-3 scoring average mark in school history, but they also each won individual titles last year, as Cho won the Dick Mcguire Invitational to kick off the season, while Mao tied for the individual title as the team claimed its NCAA Regional title to secure a place in the NCAAs.

The Cats are led by reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year, Emily Fletcher, who guided the team to four tournament wins last season, but is still looking to qualify for the elusive top-8 match play bracket at the NCAAs.

Simply put, this team was great last year, and it’s back for more.

Hannah Kim, Stephanie Lau receive All-American Honors

Hannah Kim, Stephanie Lau receive All-American Honors
(Daily file photo by Nathan Richards)

Sophomore Hannah Kim and freshman Stephanie Lau were honored as WGCA All-Americans on Wednesday afternoon.

Kim was named First-Team All-American, the first women’s golfer in school history to receive the honor, while Lau was named to the second team.

Kim is the first Northwestern golfer to receive All-American honors since Luke Donald in 1999.

Additionally, Kim won Big Ten Player of the Year for the second year in a row this year, while Lau was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

Northwestern women’s golf ties for ninth at NCAA Championships in best finish in school history

Northwestern women’s golf ties for ninth at NCAA Championships in best finish in school history
(Daily file photo by Nathan Richards)

The Wildcats came up heart-breakingly close to the match play round of the NCAA Championship, finishing the fourth round of stroke play tied for ninth place. Northwestern finished at 15-over par, one stroke behind eighth place Oregon.

In order to advance to match play, teams must finish in the top-8.

The tied-for-ninth place finish is the highest in program history, one place better than last year’s tenth place finish when the Cats finished four strokes outside the top-8.

Freshman Stephanie Lau and junior Kacie Komoto led NU on the final day, both shooting 1-under par, but Big Ten Player of the Year Hannah Kim closed with a 4-over 76, including a tough bogey on her final hole of the day.

Women’s golf sweeps Big Ten individual awards

After winning a second-consecutive Big Ten Championship, Northwestern’s women’s golf team has swept the conference’s individual honors.

Sophomore Hannah Kim was named the conference’s Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, becoming the first player to win the award twice in school history, while coach Emily Fletcher was named Coach of the Year and freshman Stephanie Lau was awarded Freshman of the Year.

On top of those awards, four Wildcats were named to the eight-player All Big Ten first team, with Kim and Lau joined by sophomore Sarah Cho and junior Kacie Komoto.

It’s been an excellent few days for the program, as Lau sank a clutch putt to secure a conference title for the team on Sunday and the conference awarded all three individual honors to members of the team for the second consecutive year today. The team will now look ahead to the NCAA Regionals, beginning on May 5.