Aug. 4, 2005
EVANSTON, Ill. - Northwestern's final two rounds of the Big Ten Championships produced season-best team scores and a final-round tournament low. It was an impressive turnaround after a seventh-place first-round, elevating the team into third-place at competition's end.
Yet despite playing its best golf at season's end, Northwestern failed to receive an at-large NCAA bid, having been plagued by a midseason slump.
"There is no doubt in my mind that at the end of the season we were probably one of the best 20 or 30 teams in the country, competitively," said head coach Pat Goss. "Unfortunately we played like the 60th-best team for part of the year."
NU played what Goss said was a "functional" fall, capturing three top-five finishes. But the `Cats could not capitalize their promising start, waiting six months for their next top-five finish.
"We hit a lot of growing pains in the middle of the year, February to early April," Goss said. "I give the guys credit though. They persevered and played very well at the end, which was encouraging. At the same point I think at the end of the year we probably played the way we should have the whole year."
Goss attributes the growing pains to a youth-laden roster. Northwestern ended the season relying heavily on the play of two freshmen -- Dan Doyle and Kyle Moore and two sophomores -- David Merkow and Chris Wilson. Dillon Dougherty, who led the the Wildcats early in the year, returns as NU's most experienced performer.
"It was a matter of learning to compete year-round," Goss said. "One of the biggest challenges of playing collegiate golf is having to compete in February through March and to do it while balancing academics. I think a lot of those things we need to learn from and do better next year."
Goss says the Wildcats will enter next season with more than good-enough players, having proven themselves at the final two tournaments of the season.
"The key will be the guys showing up with determination and a chip on the shoulder," Goss says. "I am hoping that this season--the slump, the strong finish, narrowly missing the NCAA cut -- will spur them on to work harder and play with more attitude."