Ryan Lumsden has come a long way since he shattered a window in his grandmother’s house in London as a young child while practicing with a set of plastic clubs.
The two-time All-Big Ten honoree is playing some of the best golf of his collegiate career after a top 10 finish at the Big Ten Championships to close out the month of April. Lumsden is a huge reason why the expectations for Northwestern are high entering the upcoming NCAA Regional competition.
“Our team attitude is better than ever right now,” Lumsden said on Wednesday. “We’re really excited to go, and we really think we have a great shot. It’s a course that suits us, right in the Midwest, and we can’t wait to go and play.”
But it wasn’t always this way for the 5-foot-11 junior from England, who admittedly endured some growing pains in his first year at Northwestern.
“My skillset wasn’t up to really being able to be competitive,” Lumsden said. “Then the coaches changed a couple of things around in my short game and I actually played really badly for about five months. I just played miserable golf.”
After improving toward the end of his first season, Lumsden recalled a defining moment in his Wildcat career – not being selected by the coaches to represent Northwestern at a tournament over spring break.
“I still joke about it with the coaches,” Lumsden said. “I was playing good, and had a solid tournament in an individual tournament, and really thought I should have been picked to go the next week. But my attitude hadn’t been super-focused, I hadn’t really earned that spot. Even though I thought I did, I can look back now and say I didn’t, and they didn’t take me to the tournament. They left me at home.”
Rather than dwell on the disappointment of missing the trip, Lumsden said he used the setback as motivation to revamp his entire mentality.
“It made me so mad, that I sort of came back and came out to practice and was so unbelievably focused and really, really determined that I was never going to let that happen to me again,” Lumsden said.
The results of that re-focused approach and unwavering determination were realized almost immediately. Lumsden secured his first career top-10 finish the following weekend at the Boilermaker Invitational, and from then on, his career really took off.
“It didn’t deflate him, it didn’t get him down, it made him more determined, and that’s really the response you’re always looking for from players,” Northwestern coach David Inglis said on Wednesday. “There is huge value in the struggle. Everything that you do, overcoming any kind of obstacles and difficulties along the way ultimately helps you be a better player. For him, I think that was instrumental.”
Teammate, and fellow All-Big Ten honoree for the last two seasons, Dylan Wu said he can relate to the development process.
“I see a lot of the same qualities and same progression that I went through,” Wu said. “We’re both really passionate about the game, and sometimes the emotional side can have a negative connotation.”
Wu continued: “Just having that mature development and being able to control your emotions on the golf course and being able to play smart … that maturity and that mental strength has definitely helped our games.”
Wu and Lumsden are both extremely competitive with one another, to the point of concluding every practice round before a tournament with one-on-one match play on the back nine holes to set the competitive tone.
While the individual accolades to this point have been nice, the ultimate goal for both Lumsden and Wu is far greater. They have their sights set on the team qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
“Definitely making it to Nationals is the number one goal right now,” Wu said.
“I think making it to Nationals would be a success, and then from there, we’d shoot for the match play,” Lumsden said. “That would be incredible, that would cap the whole thing off.”
Northwestern travels to Columbus, Ohio, to begin the NCAA Regionals on Monday, May 14.
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