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NU golfer Lipsky exceeds his expectations

5/29/2011

A professional golf career never crossed David Lipsky's mind when he arrived at Northwestern five years ago.

Lipsky possessed some ability coming out of high school in California, but he didn’t consider himself on the verge of making golf his future living. At the time, Northwestern coach Pat Goss projected Lipsky to be a solid contributor down the line. Lipsky set out to enjoy his time playing for the Wildcats, take advantage of the educational opportunities at Northwestern and move on to a political science-related career after graduation.

But Lipsky’s golf game changed and his future changed with it.

Lipsky will play his final rounds as a Wildcat this week when Northwestern competes with 29 other teams in the NCAA championships at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla. before embarking on a pro career.

“To be honest, I never thought my freshman year I would be where I am today,” said Lipsky, a two-time all-Big Ten first-team selection. “I don’t think that was the intended goal. Through Pat’s help and my determination and work ethic, playing professional is an achievable goal for me. I’m pretty excited.”

Lipsky began turning golf into a potential money-making endeavor following his redshirt freshman season. He could always punish a golf ball with his powerful swing, but his short game had its flaws and held him back.

“I didn’t take the right approach to it at first,” Lipsky said. “All I wanted to do was hit balls. I wanted to hit it within a few feet all the time. That wasn’t all the case. I had to get my short game in shape.”

Lipsky knew for that to happen he would have to put in hours upon hours on the green. It wasn’t something he looked forward to doing.

“The hardest part of the short game is it can get monotonous and boring,” Lipsky said.

Goss altered Lipsky’s view by making it a competition. Instead of having Lipsky and his teammates simply attempt 20 putts, they were to see who could put 15 of them in the hole.

“The more we can do drills and competitions, it makes the time go faster,” Goss said. “It also adds to the element of pushing you mentally and getting you out of your comfort zone.”

The new mindset worked for Lipsky, and his putting game increasingly got better, which in turn helped his overall game. As a sophomore, he had 13 rounds of par or better, earned second-team all-Big Ten honors and had a 73.49 stroke average.

Lipsky’s game took even bigger steps the last two years. He won the Big Ten individual championship as a junior and had a 71.88 stroke average. As a senior, he’s had seven top-20 finishes, four top-10s and 17 rounds at par or better.

With this year’s stroke average at 71.82, Lipsky now owns two of the top-seven averages in the program’s history. The only other golfer to do that is Luke Donald, who is currently ranked first in the world.

What may be most impressive about Lipsky’s game is the way he can finish. Seven of his 11 final rounds this year have been at or below par. At the UNCG Bridgetown Collegiate in October, he finished with three consecutive birdies and an eagle to win the tournament.

Just last week at the Colorado regional, Lipsky delivered again in the clutch. He was the last Northwestern player out on the course, and it appeared he needed a strong finish for Northwestern to quality for the NCAA championships.

Lipsky made par on his 17th hole. On No. 18, a par 3, his drive flew long and set up a difficult pitch shot. He felt nervous with so much on the line as he prepared for it, but came through once again. He knocked the ball up a slope and put it within a few feet of the hole.

“There’s not five players in that field that could have hit that shot and probably not another in that situation,” Goss said. “He absolutely nailed it.”

Lipsky tapped the ball in and finished with a 4-under 68 in the final round, helping Northwestern jump from eighth place to third on the final day to qualify for the NCAA championships.

“David is going to be one of those kids I’m going to tell future teams about for the years to come,” Goss said. “How much he improved, how much he grew up, how much his short game was important. I promise you 10 years from now some kid on my team is going to be sick of hearing David Lipsky stories.”