The Huskies have invited an array of schools from across the region to compete in the team’s first home tournament since 2006.
Central Florida, East Tennessee State, Illinois, Illinois State, Indiana, Purdue, St. Francis, Tulsa, and Virginia Tech, as well as Mid-American Conference rivals Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Miami, and Toledo, will venture to Sugar Grove, Ill. in this early-season event.
NIU enters the tournament coming off a successful 2010-11 campaign that saw them finish sixth at the season-ending MAC Championships at TPC River’s Bend. Since that event, the Huskie lineup has changed significantly. The playing days of NIU’s “Great Triumvirate” of Tim Kay, Jeff Dick and Andrew Frame have ceased, while the arrivals of four freshmen inject new blood into the program.
Frame, who finished his career as NIU’s all-time leader in rounds played, has committed another year to the team in the form of a graduate assistantship. The longtime NIU “model of consistency” should help the team through a smooth transition at this weekend’s tournament. The Manteno, Ill. native played in NIU’s last home tournament at Rich Harvest Farms, and will have insight to share with the team as to how it plays under competitive conditions.
Junior Bryce Emory will look to get off to a strong start after closing impressively down the stretch last spring. The Marmion Academy product turned in three consecutive top-30 performances, including a personal-best fifth at the Earl Yestingsmeier Invitational. When the dust settled, Emory finished with the team’s third best scoring average (75.7).
Redshirt junior Griffin Bauman is the Huskies’ other veteran presence ready to shine atop the NIU starting lineup. The Crystal Lake, Ill. native posted a season-best tie for 11th at the Boilermaker Invitational last April, rattling off a trio of 74s at Purdue’s Kemper Course. Despite a disappointing MAC Championship performance, Bauman is set fulfill his potential this season.
The team will be challenging a familiar foe, its home track of Rich Harvest Farms.
The host of the 2009 Solheim Cup, Rich Harvest Farms will be a formidable foe for this week’s field. Saturday’s first round will play to 6,954 yards, but will be extending over the course of the event to 7,436 by way of alternate tee boxes.
The par four second will be one to watch this weekend. Normally a par five, it has been changed to a four for this event. The approximately 500-yard hole will yield few birdies this weekend. Players will look to hit a long drive in the fairway to give them just an opportunity to hit this green in regulation. A risk-reward pond guards the putting surface, forcing players to make the decision to go for it, or try to get up-and-down with a second-shot layup. Either way, the hole sets the tone early on that this course is not one to be messed with.
The first players will tee off at 6:45 a.m. Saturday. Thirty-six holes will be played on Day One, followed by a final 18 on Sunday. Fans can track the tournament on golfstat.com.
For more information on NIU men’s golf and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.