Men’s and women’s golf preview: ‘Cats eager to get back into the swing of things

Men’s and women’s golf preview: ‘Cats eager to get back into the swing of things

The Wildcats are looking forward to returning to the course after a short but successful fall season. Let’s see what each of the teams has in store for the spring.

Coach David Inglis and the men are looking to continue building on a slump that saw them rack up four top-five finishes in five tournaments, with one win and two second-place finishes. The goal is to make a return to NCAA Regionals after missing out in 2021-22, and after that, the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2018.

Graduate student David Nyfjäll is leading the way for the ‘Cats in what is likely his final season at Evanston. During his time wearing purple, Nyfjäll earned a plethora of honors including Big Ten Freshman of the Year (2018-2019), First Team All-Big Ten (2018-2019), three Big Ten Preseason Honoree selections (2019-20, 2021, 2022-23) and GCAA Division 1 PING All-Region team. He will lead the way this season as he looks to lower his already impressive 71.77 shot average.

Another impact golfer for Northwestern is expected to be senior John Driscoll. He joins Nyfjäll on the list of Big Ten Men’s Golfers to Watch as his quest to propel the Wildcats to a title is renewed. He has improved year over year, lowering his stroke average by more than half a stroke between 2019-20 and 2021. The team hopes that trend will continue.

Rounding out the trio of ‘Cats receiving preseason honors is Cameron Adam. The second-year Scotsman boasts an impressive junior career, which ranks second among Europe’s U-16s. His season is already off to a good start as he was a big part of Northwestern’s win at the Windon Memorial Classic in the fall.

Other expected contributors for Inglis’ team include senior James Imai, who received Big Ten preseason honors in 2021 and averaged 73.67 shots per round; junior Chris Zhang who also helped in the fall; and the freshman trio of Akshay Anand, Daniel Svärd and Ethan Tseng, all of whom bring their own impressive resumes to Evanston.

The team begins the spring component of the season with the Big Ten Match Play Championship this weekend in Palm Coast, Florida. Northwestern, thanks to its status in Golfstat’s fall rankings, holds the top seed, meaning it will face nine-seeded Maryland on Friday in the first round of the single-elimination tournament. After that, the Wildcats head to La Quinta, Calif. to continue escaping the cold Evanston and compete in The Prestige tournament. After that, there are four more tournaments before the Big Ten Championship. In total, the spring lineup includes approximately 11,309.9 miles of travel, so by the end the Wildcats will be extremely familiar with the intricacies of the United States.

The women’s team is waiting a little longer to start their spring season, but they’re also ready to hit the ties. Emily Fletcher’s team will look to improve on a fall that saw one top five and two top eights as they strive for their 13th straight NCAA Regionals appearance. The four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year also has the team to do it.

Lauryn Nguyen, the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year, is the headliner for the team. His first season on the shores of Lake Michigan ended with a sixth-place finish in the Big Ten Championship. That’s not to mention an impressive list of junior accolades that’s longer than a par five at Erin Hills. She was also named to the All-Big Ten second team in her freshman year.

If All-Big Ten honors are in the discussion, Jennifer Cai and Kelly Sim would like a word. Cai earned a first-team nod after a season that saw her finish third in the Big Ten Championships and claim a one-on-one victory in the B1G Match Play Championship Finals.

Sim was named to an All-Big Ten team for her fourth straight season last year, as she earned second-team honors. His season was honored with the Golfer of the Week award after going undefeated at the Match Play Championships. She is also currently in good form with two top-13 finishes at the fall tournaments.

The spring season kicks off with the UCF Challenge in Orlando on February 5. After that, they will stay on the east coast for their next two tournaments which end in February, the Moon Golf Invitational and the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate. They have just two tournaments left once March rolls around, and then it’s time to head to the Big Ten championships and beyond.

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