Feb. 16, 2005
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern's men's golf team will feature a mixture of youth and experience in 2004-05.
Northwestern started the fall slowly as head coach Pat Goss experimented with different lineups, but the combinations Goss put together became more potent as the fall progressed. In the team's third event, the Wildcats captured the Windon Memorial Classic title. Northwestern placed in the top five in its last three events.
"Overall, I am pleased with the progress we made this fall," says Goss. "We are beginning to show signs of being the team we should be, and I was especially proud of the player's ability to respond to a tough start. They worked hard, kept their faith and showed some character after the first two events."
Entering the spring season, the Wildcats' hard work and perseverance is paying off as they have climbed to 32nd in the Golfweek/Sagarin index. With an eight-man roster that features no seniors, optimism surrounds the potential of this year's youthful but talented squad.
The Wildcats will look to their most experienced player, redshirt junior Dillon Dougherty, for leadership. Dougherty was second in stroke average last season behind Tom Johnson, a three-time All-Big Ten selection.
Dougherty closed the fall season in strong fashion. He posted two top-10 finishes and a top-20 performance in the last three tournaments. The highlight of that run was an individual tournament title at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational. Dougherty fired a 6-under 207 to take home a share of the championship.
"Dillon's work ethic and desire to be a great player are second to none," says Goss. "He has improved consistently each year, culminating in his first college win this fall. Dillon will continue to improve and will be a strong All-Big Ten and All-America candidate this season. He has done a great job of stepping into his leadership role and provides a great model for the rest of the team."
Sophomore David Merkow returns after playing in six of 11 events as a freshman and posting the fourth-best scoring average (75.78). During the fall Merkow had no problem following the example set by Dougherty. Merkow finished third at the Alister MacKenzie and was second in scoring (74.21). He, like Dougherty, had two top-10 showings and placed in the top 20 once. He also tied Dougherty for low round of the fall (67).
"David has begun to show his potential to be a great college player," says Goss. "He has worked hard and continually improved. He was able to really help our team and contend individually this fall without his best game. I am very excited to see his progress this spring."
Like Merkow, junior Bryson Young played in only six events last season but will see an expanded role this season. Young has shown he is capable of competing at the highest level. In last season's Alister MacKenzie, Young shot under-par in all three rounds and placed second. In the fall Young held the lead after the first of two rounds in the Pac-10/Big Ten Challenge, a field that included 2003 NCAA medalist Alejandro Canizares of Arizona State.
"Bryson has a great ability to shoot low numbers. When his confidence is high, he is tough to beat. As he continues to improve his short game and putting, he will become a top Big Ten player."
Dan Doyle has already made an impact as a freshman. The Rochester, Mich., native played in all five fall events and was Northwestern's top finisher in just his second collegiate tournament, the Notre Dame Invitational.
"Dan had a solid fall for a freshman and will be a stalwart in our lineup," says Goss. "As he gets bigger and stronger and continues to improve his fundamentals, he will blossom as a college player. He possesses the intangible qualities necessary to be a great player."
After playing in just three events last year, sophomore Chris Wilson competed in four this fall. He had the third-best stroke average and posted a top-10 finish at the fall's last event, the Big Ten/Pac-10 Challenge.
"Chris made a great step forward in the Big Ten/Pac-10 Challenge proving he will contend at the college level," says Goss. "As his confidence grows and his putting improves, he will be one of the best players in the Big Ten."
Junior Scott Weber and freshman Kyle Moore each saw action in the fall, adding to the Wildcats' depth and fostering in-house competition.
"Scott and Kyle are both solid players," says Goss. "With the benefit of off-season work, I think they will make strides heading into the spring."
Harmen Hubert, who hails from the Netherlands, proved he can compete at the international level as a junior golfer. In his first year at Northwestern, Hubert is acclimating himself to college life and golf, and Goss thinks he will contribute down the road.
"As Harmen adjusts to school in the United States and college golf, he will have a chance to get into the lineup and help our team. His extensive international background will help him adjust."
Throughout the Northwestern roster and coaching staff, one thing is a staple -- hard work.
"The team is constantly improving and worked very hard this fall," says Goss. "Each player addressed their weaknesses and focused on their short game. If we can take that attitude with us all year, it will be a special year for Northwestern golf."
Northwestern will use a demanding slate to prepare itself to be in the hunt at the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. Being in the hunt for conference and national title is not an anomaly for Northwestern golf, it has come to be expected.
With the combination of youth and experience along with the talent and leadership that Northwestern possesses, plus continuous work, the Wildcats will not be satisfied with anything less than a special year.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
This weekend, the Wildcats begin their spring season at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship. The annual event is once again being held at the Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Three rounds will be played, with the first 18 holes scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 20. The tournament continues through Tuesday.
Defending champion South Carolina, along with 10th-ranked Duke and 12th-ranked UCLA lead the loaded 17-team field. All 17 entrants are ranked 73rd or higher, with 13 of the 17 teams ranked in Golfweek's top 50. Northwestern, the lone northern school in this tournament, is ranked 32nd in the latest Sagarin index.
"It's a great field and a challenging way to begin the spring, but one we always look forward to," said Goss.
Live stats and latest results are available for the tournament by linking to Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship. Other tournament information can be found at North Florida Sports News.