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Hinsdale resident, Benet grad hopes to lead Northwestern to Big Ten golf title

HINSDALE – It didn't take much for John Callahan to get hooked on golfing.

His dad helped him get started young, and the Northwestern University senior has been at it ever since.

"I played a little nine-hole course when I was 4 or 5, and ever since then I've been golfing," Callahan said. "It's in the family."

A well-rounded athlete growing up, Callahan also played baseball and basketball through grade school, but golf became his primary sport the older he got. He started competing in more tournaments, and by the time he moved on to Benet Academy, he was one of the top golfers in the area.

A part of the Redwings' varsity team for four years, he played in the state tournament three times and finished fifth in the state as a sophomore and helped the Redwings to a top-10 finish as a team when he was a junior. Since then, he's continued to improve.

"Looking back, I felt pretty good playing in the high school tournaments and qualifying for state, but it's been steady improvement," Callahan said. "Every year I get a little better."

The stats bear that out. He's trimmed nearly three strokes per round off his 78.44 scoring average from his freshman season.

Callahan competed for Santa Clara as a college freshman. He played in nine events for the Broncos, including the West Coast Conference championships. When the opportunity to transfer to Northwestern presented itself, however, he jumped at the chance to make the move prior to his sophomore year.

"I did miss the Midwest and I missed Chicago," Callahan said. "Once I got into (Northwestern), I knew it was an opportunity I couldn't turn down. It's been a dream come true."

Under the tutelage of NU head coach Pat Goss and swing coach David Inglis, Callahan's trend of steady improvement has continued, even if the scores he's recorded this summer aren't the kind he likes.

"I've played in a few tournaments this summer," said Callahan, who participated in the Illinois Open at the Glen Club in Glenview on Monday and Tuesday, but missed the cut for Wednesday's final round. "I'm not going to say it's going as well as I hoped, but I'm steadily improving."

Callahan also played in the Trans-Mississippi Amateur in early July and a U.S. Open local qualifer in May. As the summer winds down, his golf season will heat up as he transitions from playing amateur events to collegiate events with the Wildcats.

Northwestern has finished no worse than third at the Big Ten Championships the past three seasons, but it has not won the title since 2006. Callahan's plan is to help the Wildcats get back on top and unseat four-time defending champ Illinois in the process.

"We want to win the Big Ten," Callahan said. "I'm kind of tired of Illinois winning it every year. The goal every year is to win the Big Ten and make it to the NCAA match play tournament because anything can happen."

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