Men’s golf out to prove it’s ‘a good team at the core’

By Steve Shonder

Men’s golf is going to try to stay out of last place in its next tournament.

The Huskies will travel to Columbus, Ohio, for the Jack Nicklaus Invitational Sunday and Monday at the Scarlet Course at the Ohio State Golf Club. The invitational is hosted by Ohio State, which the Huskies last saw at the Northern Intercollegiate Sept. 7.

The Huskies are coming off back-to-back disappointing tournaments to open the season and are looking to have some positive finishes after finishing last in both of their tournaments.

NIU will face off against MAC rivals Kent State and Miami (Ohio), among other teams.

Head coach Tom Porten said he expects NIU to have a much better tournament after playing at strenuous courses in its last two outings, but he warned the Scarlet Course has its own challenges.

“It’s less intimidating,” Porten said. “It’s a lot more straightforward. … At Scarlet, you’re just in the rough; you may be behind a tree, but you’ll find your ball. There aren’t as many hazards as we saw at Rich Harvest and Wolf Run. But, it’s a very long course … like you see in the major tournaments. There’s some very long par fours and par threes.”

Redshirt junior Nick Huggins, an Ohio native, expects to have a good tournament in his home state.

“I’m really excited for the next tournament,” Huggins said. “I haven’t played in Ohio yet, so I’ll have lots of friends and family coming out to see me play.”

The Huskies will largely stick with the same lineup. Huggins, junior Jordan Wetsch, sophomore Raphael Denais and senior Liam White are slated to go in four of the five starting spots. The remaining spot and the individual representative are pending on the team’s qualifying results.

The Huskies have scored 945 and 949 in their last two tournaments, respectively. While they haven’t been able to dig themselves out of last place, they’ve put together some strong third-round performances. That late tournament success should translate to some early round success soon.

“We’re a good team at the core,” Huggins said. “We’ve played at a pair of challenging courses. This is going to be an easier course. I’m really excited.”