So maybe this means something.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald sank a 7-foot birdie putt on the final hole Monday at Chicago Highlands to help his team win the Walker Open. The fivesome scrambled their way to a 14-under 58, winning by one. (The prize pack awarded to Fitzgerald contained a football autographed by … Pat Fitzgerald.)
Was the victory a sign of things to come after the Wildcats suffered through a seven-game losing streak in 2013?
“I’m not a believer in omens,” Fitzgerald said.
The annual event is named after the late Randy Walker, who guided the Wildcats to the 2000 Big Ten title. Said widow Tammy Weikert Walker: “Playing golf is a great way to honor Randy. He loved golf – love/hate, actually.”
Speaking afterward to about 100 supporters of the Northwestern Gridiron Network, Fitzgerald showed a mix of humor and bravado.
“Raise your hand if you played with any of our (assistant) coaches,” he said. “I’m so sorry. We’re not a very good golf staff. But hopefully we’ll be a better coaching staff this year. I’m glad to get back into football season. It has been a long offseason, a very interesting offseason.”
Union talk dominated the spring, and the situation is far from resolved. If the National Labor Relations Board affirms the decision that granted employee status to NU’s players – a decision expected by December – the results of the April 25 vote will be counted and revealed.
“The things we went through in the offseason, they’re very united,” Fitzgerald said of his players. “It has forced them to look inward and communicate better.”
Fitzgerald asked those gathered to help fill Ryan Field, especially when the “Red Army” of Nebraska comes Oct. 18 for Homecoming.
“It’s a pretty boring state, so they’re really excited to see Chicago,” Fitzgerald said. “I talked to the state senator about putting state troopers out on I-80 (to block them).”
Fitzgerald also alluded to some hard feelings resulting from last season’s 44-30 victory at Cal. Bears coach Sonny Dykes accused the Wildcats of faking injuries to slow down Cal’s no-huddle offense, confronting Fitzgerald during the post-game handshake.
“The way it went last year,” Fitzgerald told the NU fans, “I look forward to shaking that coach’s hand after we beat ‘em.”