NIU men’s golf: Huskies face Big Ten, MAC opponents at Boilermaker Invitational

By Steve Shonder

Men’s golf will try to get momentum in its last tournament before the MAC Championships.

The Huskies will get their shot in the Boilermaker Invitational on Saturday and Sunday on the Kampen Course at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex in West Lafayette, Ind. They’ll be competing against a 15-team field that features the Purdue Boilermakers, No. 3 Illinois Fighting Illini, Ohio State Buckeyes and Louisville Cardinals. There will also be four MAC teams competing: the Kent State Golden Flashes, Toledo Rockets, Miami (Ohio) Redhawks and Ball State Cardinals.

With this being the last tournament before the MAC Championships, the Huskies will need to make the adjustments they need, like playing through the final round and cleaning up their greens play.

“It’s a great opportunity to continue to do what we’ve done since October — since the Sagamore [Fall Preview] — at the end of the season,” said head coach Tom Porten. “We have yet to lose to a MAC school since then, and we want to continue to be on the right side of that ledger on the scoreboard.

“It’s a great opportunity to see Kent State, how they’re playing and how we match up against them. Guys are so excited to get a chance to play against not just MAC, but also against the Big Ten, as well.”

The Huskies will roll out the same lineup as in the previous two tournaments but are changing up the order again. They will hope to maintain the consistent play that’s kept them competitive in previous outings with this lineup. Junior Nick Huggins will go in the No. 1 spot, followed by sophomore Raphael Denais, sophomore Joo-Young Lee, junior Jordan Wetsch and freshman Patrick Murphy.

The final round has proven to be the Huskies’ biggest obstacle. In the last three tournaments, the Huskies have been fifth or better heading into the final round but haven’t been able to close well.

“We have done things in the conference room, like talking about managing the final round,” Porten said. “We talked about making those adjustments and moving the line they hit the ball on to more be conservative.

“We’ve been out at Rich Harvest practicing those same things we talked about in the classroom out on the golf course. We’re trying to be creative, but the process is still the same. It’s been a good week of practice, they’re listening and making those adjustments.”

The Kampen Course is regarded as one of the most difficult courses in the Midwest, so the Huskies will need a strong practice round Friday to get a feel for the course. They’ve been preparing strategies to get through some of the course’s more difficult obstacles.

“The challenge of the Kampen course lies in the collection par-3s: holes 2, 5, 13 and 17,” Porten said. “When you combine those four par-3s, they’re as hard a grouping of par-3 s as anywhere in country. They all have water, and it’s very difficult. You can’t prepare at Rich Harvest because they’re so unique. The practice round becomes a time for players to pick and choose how aggressive they’ll play it. It’s OK to putt 30 feet rather than play with the water.”