Men’s golf looks to bounce back in 2nd outing

By Steve Shonder

Men’s golf has nowhere to go but up when it hits the links in Indiana this weekend after it finished in last place in its opening tournament

The Huskies will participate in the Wolf Run Intercollegiate Saturday to Sunday at Wolf Run Golf Club in Zionsville, Ind. The Huskies will face tough competition as they go up against Indiana, five-time Wolf Run Intercollegiate champion No. 6 Illinois and MAC rival Eastern Michigan.

Head coach Tom Porten is expecting NIU to have a much better showing in Indiana than it did during the season opener. He said he was impressed with the team’s play in its qualifying rounds.

“It was a little cold this weekend, but we had a good qualifying,” Porten said. “There were a couple players who struggled [at the Northern Intercollegiate] that came back strong. The veteran players are getting more comfortable and more consistent. That’s a really good sign.”

The starting lineup for the Wolf Run Intercollegiate is similar to the one the Huskies trotted out at the Northern Intercollegiate, but sophomore Joo-Young Lee will make the start in place of senior Liam White.

Lee was impressive in his last outing. In the first round, he scored a 73. He followed that with a 79 in the third round. He was disqualified in the second round after failing to get his scorecard signed before leaving the scoring area.

Porten said Lee is healthy after dealing with back issues.

NIU will hope to get a strong performance from sophomore Raphael Denais. Denais started strong in the last tournament but fell off in the second round, scoring an 80 before recovering with his best score of the weekend, a 75, in the third round.

The biggest challenge the Huskies faced came on the green. Porten said the improvements made in the last two weeks will be enough to put the Huskies over the edge.

“We had several [players] score under par in qualifying,” Porten said. “Obviously, we did not see that in the [Northern Intercollegiate]. Across the board, our putting and short game work is paying off.”

Porten said junior Nick Huggins was a standout for the Huskies in practice this week, especially in his putting game. Huggins, who saw his first action at the Northern Intercollegiate since the fall 2013 season after injuries sidelined him, is facing high expectations as he’s slotted into the lineup at No. 2.

Sophomore Pierrick Fillon is expected to compete as an individual again. Fillon finished the Northern Intercollegiate with the highest score of any NIU golfer with a 229, 13 over par.