NU Snares 4th Place In ColumbusBy Liana B. Baker Daily Northwestern
April 19, 2007
Evanston, IL (CSTV U-WIRE) -- The stage was set for a win last weekend. Northwestern was the defending champion, had some momentum from a second-place finish the week before and was playing in its favorite frosty conditions.
But golf is a fickle sport, according to senior David Merkow, and NU was unable to capture its first win of the season at the Robert Kepler Intercollegiate in Columbus, Ohio.
"We've significantly underachieved this year," Merkow said. "But no one will remember this if we win another Big Ten championship."
Merkow led his team by finishing tied for fourth place (72-76) at 5-over par. It was the senior's best finish of the season and impressed NU coach Pat Goss.
"He's very close to being the most talented player in the field," Goss said.
Kyle Moore, who won the Kepler last year, also recorded a top-10 finish. The junior came in sixth place (70-79) at 7-over. Jon Bowers, the freshman who showed promise early in the season, finished 14th at 10-over (76-76).
Bowers appears to be back on track after not cracking the top 60 in two straight appearances.
"Jon's results haven't matched the quality of his game lately, but he's getting closer," Goss said.
At the Kepler, NU had a chance to test out Ohio State's Scarlet course, which is also the site of the Big Ten tournament April 27-29. Merkow said last weekend gave him a chance to understand the course better and prepare for the conference tournament.
"I've always prided myself on knowing how to play a course," Merkow said "I don't blast it on every hole."
NU isn't the only school who used the tournament as a test run. All the Big Ten teams except Minnesota competed at the Kepler. NU tied Michigan State but placed ahead of all the other conference teams.
Merkow said he is comforted by the fact NU has routinely placed ahead of its Big Ten competitors, which will help his team's chances of making the NCAA regionals if it does win the conference tournament.
"Regionals are in a month, and it doesn't matter how you get there," Merkow said, referring to NU's spotty non-conference record this season.
Goss said he is more concerned getting all his players to start performing well on the course at the same time. He said each player has shown this season they can be atop the leader board but it's time for collective success.
"All five guys are good enough to win," Goss said. "It's time to start peaking."
Unlike last year, NU has a 10-day break before the Big Ten tournament. This respite will give players time to recover from their weekly road trips and help them focus on improvement. Merkow said he plans to practice putting for an hour each day leading up to the tournament because lately, "it's been mediocre at best."
Goss said Merkow will likely regain confidence in his short game and the week of practice will be crucial to the whole team.
"The weather has finally broken and we're going to address our weakness and be a much more prepared team nine days from now," Goss said.
(C) 2007 Daily Northwestern via CSTV U-WIRE