Northwestern faces Southern California in NCAA semifinal

Writing from Sugar Grove, Illinois

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Momentum isn’t a big thing in stroke play golf. One player is playing against the entire field, and unless a birdie putt rolls in on every hole, the field usually has a better chance than the individual.

Match play is completely different. Roll in a long putt for a birdie or a par save, or hole out from a bunker, and the opponent can be shaken.

Northwestern’s women’s team has played a lot of match play this season, and it has showed. Tuesday, the Wildcats scored a 3-2 victory over plucky Kent State to advance to the NCAA Women’s Championship semifinals.

The matchup sounds like the 1996 Rose Bowl: The Wildcats will tee off against Southern California at 2:20 p.m. (Illinois Golfer will have a report on the match later this evening.)

Getting there, though, has been more than half the fun. Even on another rainy day at Rich Harvest Farms – it’s time for owner Jerry Rich to spring for a roof – the Wildcats made enough birdies early to hold off the Golden Flashes late.

The third quarterfinal match was won by senior Kacie Komoto, who subdued Michaela Finn, 2 up with pars on the last four holes, including a critical par save on the par-3 16th after missing the green.

“I had that shot the first day,” Komoto said. “Uphill lie. I followed my game plan and it worked out well.”

Finn needed to birdie the par-5 18th to square the match and earn a half, but bogeyed instead, and the Wildcats were through to the semis.

“Kacie has played great through the last month of the season,” coach Emily Fletcher said. “I wouldn’t write it any other way. She really is a fighter and doesn’t get rattled.”

Match play experience has paid off for the Wildcats.

“We play match play in a lot of amateur tournaments in the summer, like the U.S. Amateur, and this season, we played the men’s team in a match, and a quad against Alabama, Florida State and Duke,” Komoto said. “So it feels very natural. It’s not unusual any more.”

That was precisely the idea behind the scheduling, Fletcher said.

“If you’d have asked them a year ago, they probably would have said they were a little scared of it,” Fletcher said. “We intentionally played a lot of match play this year. I think that’s helped us tremendously. And the men have shown us the way a little bit.”

Batting leadoff, Northwestern’s Sarah Cho raced to a 3-up lead after four holes and scored a 6 and 5 victory over Kelly Nielsen for the first Wildcat point. Hannah Kim won the second point, beating Wad Phaewchimplee 3 and 1 on her match. Kent State’s Karoline Stormo beat Janet Mao, 3 and 2, and the Golden Flashes’ Pimnipa Panthong took the measure of Stephanie Lau, 3 and 1.

Everyone on the Wildcats was on last year’s starting five, and only Komoto will be graduating. Fletcher has built a powerhouse.

“One to five, we’ve got tremendous strength,” Fletcher said. “We’ve been inconsistent all year with everybody firing on all cylinders, and we finally got that this week.”

In the semifinal, Cho played Victoria Morgan, Kim met Robynn Ree, Komoto faced off against Muni He, Mao played Gabriella Then, and Lau faced Tiffany Chan.

Arizona State blanked Florida, 5-0, in its quarterfinal, building on the momentum created when senior Monica Vaughn won the individual title on Monday. Vaughn scored a 2 and 1 victory over Karolina Vickova in her match.

The Sun Devils face Stanford in the other semifinal match, an all-Pacific 12 encounter. Stanford knocked off Baylor, 3-2, while USC was taken nearly to the limit before subduing Ohio State, 3.5-1.5.

Tim Cronin

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>
« Northwestern runner-up in NCAA Women's Championship | Main | Northwestern captures top seed in NCAA Women's match play »