Northwestern cruised to its fifth straight berth in the NCAA women's golf championship, advancing last week with the second-best score in its regional.
Now comes the hard part -- thriving at Rich Harvest Farms, where the tournament will be played Friday to Wednesday.
Rich Harvest, in west suburban Sugar Grove, is one of the toughest courses in the Midwest. From the tips it has a slope rating of 155 -- equal to TPC Sawgrass, site of the Players Championship.
"The rough can be a real factor," Northwestern coach Emily Fletcher said. "The wind can switch and go the other way. There are some severe greens, and a few holes can get away from them depending on the conditions."
The Wildcats enter in peak form. Their top three players in the regional in Athens, Ga. -- Sarah Cho, Hannah Kim and Kacie Komoto -- all finished in the top 12 individually. Stephanie Lau and Janet Mao rounded out the regional lineup.
Northwestern is one of 24 teams that advanced to Rich Harvest; after 72 holes of stroke play, the top eight move on to match play, which Golf Channel will televise. Last year the Wildcats missed out on match play by one shot in Eugene, Ore.
"Missing out by one shot has reinforced to us the value of judging the wind, making the right club selection and being fully present in the shot you're trying to hit," Fletcher said. "It was extremely disappointing, but I think our kids will be better for it."
Arizona State, Alabama and Stanford are the top three teams in Golfweek's rankings; all three won their regionals. Washington, which beat Stanford for last year's national title, did not qualify for the championship.
Rich Harvest also will host the men's championship May 26-31. Illinois, ranked seventh by Golfweek and a semifinalist the last two years, is one of 30 teams in the field.
This article is written by Teddy Greenstein from Chicago Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.