Feb. 12, 2014
|Lady Puerto Rico Classic
||Sunday, Feb. 16-Tuesday, Feb. 18
||Wyndham Rio Mar Resort & Rio Mar Country Club – River Course | Rio Grande, P.R.
||Sun.-Mon.: Shotgun start at 8 a.m. local time
Tues.: Shotgun start at 7:30 a.m. local time
| Live Coverage
||Golfstat.com Live Results
||Auburn (No. 29), Alabama (No. 7), Arkansas (No. 8), Augusta State, Georgia (No. 53), Iowa State (No. 22), Kent State (No. 25), Michigan, Missouri (No. 81), NC State (No. 15), Northwestern (No. 19), Purdue (No. 66) (host), TCU (No. 43), Tennessee (No. 67), Texas Tech (No. 59)
-Rankings taken from Golfstat.com
NU Women's Golf Season Stats
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern’s 2014 spring campaign begins this weekend as the Wildcats make their annual trek to the Lady Puerto Rico Classic, played at the Wyndham Rio Mar Resort and Rio Mar Country Club. A strong field awaits NU, who enters the spring ranked No. 19 in the Golfstat.com rankings, as seven of the 15 teams in the field are ranked in the top 30.
Northwestern head coach Emily Fletcher and her squad had a solid fall season, placing in the top five in three of the four events. The Wildcats also return a number of key golfers that helped the program win its first Big Ten Championship in 2013.
With the season getting underway this weekend, Fletcher took some time to preview her team and some changes to the schedule in the Q&A below.
What are your thoughts on the team heading into the first weekend of competition for the spring?
“We’re excited. It seems like it’s gone pretty fast, getting back the first week in January and getting started. After a couple of trips to Florida, I’m really pleased with the effort our team has put forth the last four to five weeks and I think they’re ready to compete. I’m optimistic and looking forward to getting to Puerto Rico and getting some competitive rounds under our belts.”
There are a number of different tournaments on this year's spring schedule. What were some of the factors for playing in different events?
“We mixed it up for a couple of reasons. We added the Silverado Showdown in Napa, Calif. (April 14-15) and any time we can go to California, we think it’s an important trip for us to make. We recruit so heavily out of California that it just gives us exposure and gives us an opportunity for some of our California kids to go home and for us to have a reach to our recruiting population out there. Plus, it’s at an amazing place, so we’re really looking forward to that.
“The other thing that fell in along with those dates were, they were almost a week earlier than the Lady Buckeye that we normally play in, so we’ll finish on a Tuesday and we won’t have to leave for Big Ten’s until the following Wednesday. That gives us eight days of preparation for Big Ten’s versus when we used to play at the Lady Buckeye, we’d finish on Sunday and then we’d have to leave two three days later on Wednesday to go to Big Ten’s. So we had the opportunity to mix it up a little bit this year. We wanted to just see how that shapes up for our kids more so academically than anything else, for them to not feel the pressure of missing back-to-back weekends. And then the other thing is just to give us a little time to work through any issues and get some practice in preparation for Big Ten’s.
“At Big Ten’s this year, we’re playing at the Pete Dye Course in French Lick, Ind., which is different than the Donald Ross Course we’ve played at in the past. We’ll have an opportunity to get up to Conway Farms, which is a similar style of golf course as the Pete Dye Course, so it will give us some time to get up there and really prepare specifically for Big Ten’s.
“The other event that we added that’s new is the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic at the University of Georgia in Athens and that format’s going to be a little different. It will be a taste of what’s to come because women’s golf is going to match play for our national championship in 2015 and this event is a match play event. There will be 16 teams and we’ll play one 18-hole day of stroke play and then you will be seeded 1-8 and 9-16. Then you’ll play two rounds on Saturday and one round on Sunday in match play, so it’s a little different format for us. This will start to prepare us for what our national championship is going to be in future years. University of Georgia has always been a great event. It’s an event we’ve worked hard to get invited to and we did get invited this year. Now that the format’s changed, I think it will give us a good opportunity to prepare for the future.”
How have freshmen Kacie Komoto and Minjia Luo adjusted?
“The freshmen are doing great. This freshman class, Kacie and Minjia have really adapted well to our indoor practice these last four to six weeks. It’s a little bit different. They know about it coming in, they understand what we do and how we do it, but to experience I think is a little bit eye opening for them, but I think they’ve both done a really good job. We’ve encouraged them to really get caught up in the process of really getting better and having the opportunity to work on some things, short game and putting for both of them. We just got a new putter for Kacie, which we think is really going to help her. She’s very solid mechanically, but she was having some issues aiming and all indications after our practice trip in Florida is that she’s feeling a lot more confident and making a lot more putts. That will be key because she’s such a strong ball striker and if we can get her making a few more putts, I think she’s going to be able to shoot some under par rounds and be part of the strength of our lineup.
“Minjia is going to travel and play as an individual this weekend in Puerto Rico. She’s doing great. She’s really bought into the fact that this is the time of year that we need to do some things that make us a little uncomfortable and really make some progress and she’s done a good job there. Both of these freshmen have incredible work ethic in the classroom, and at practice. They’ve been a great addition to our team and their transition has just been seamless. The way that they’ve meshed in with the rest of our team has just been terrific.”
Three different players led you at tournaments in the fall. Is that a testament to how deep this team is?
“Yeah, I really do think so. We sent our lineup in for Puerto Rico and it’s like who do you play at No. 1, 2 and 3? When you look at Kaitlin Park, Suchaya Tangkamolprasert and Hana Lee, all three of those players, and even with Elizabeth Szokol and Kacie, everybody has stepped up and played really well. Our scoring averages from lowest to highest don’t differentiate by more than a stroke, stroke and a half. I think it does show some of the depth that we’ve got and it’s a testament to them. They’re all working hard and doing a great job of getting better so that’s part of the excitement of looking forward to competing these next couple of weeks.”
What will your lineup look like for the Lady Puerto Rico Classic?
“Kaitlin is going to play one, Suchaya 2, Hana 3, Kacie 4, Elizabeth 5. Those are kind of just numbers on a page for us because we’re so close. Kaitlin led us in the fall and she’s doing great. Suchaya has really come on, it’s really impressive the effort she’s put in and what she’s been able to do. She just continues to improve every single day, every single week in practice. Hana is really coming around too. Elizabeth is coming off surgery on a torn labrum in her hip, which she had in November. It’s pretty incredible what she has done and he’s back full speed, plus right now. That was huge for us to have her back in the lineup and she’s playing well and has made good progress.
“Devon Brown is our only senior on the team and she is going a great job. She’s fully engaged and she’s all in. I told her this after our last trip, but we don’t win Big Ten’s last year without her. I think she’ll be a key player for us going into Big Ten’s this year. She’s working hard and giving full effort in the weight room, on the golf course and in the classroom she’s doing a great job. She’s a big part of our team and I think it speaks to our depth. I think you might see some changes as the season goes on. The top five have separated themselves a little bit but in the coming weeks we may see some shifting in that last spot.”
What will it take for this team to repeat as Big Ten Champions?
“I think it’s just most of our work that we’re doing right now and doing on a daily basis. That’s what we’ve really tried to focus on, to continue to improve and get better, look at our weaknesses and see where we need to make improvements and we’re trying to do that. We just believe that’s going to lead us to be the most prepared we can be for Big Ten’s.
“I think that our short game is going to be a key component to us playing well at Big Ten’s. The Pete Dye Course is quite demanding around the greens. It’s quite different than the course we played at the last couple of years so I think our short game, our putting and pitching of the golf ball is really going to be critical. We’ll continue to focus on that and make sure we’ve done a lot of work in that area and making sure that fundamentally, we’re good. Then we will need to make those improvements and take them into competition with us in these next two or three tournaments and then as we get ready for the postseason.”
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