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Notre Dame finishes 17th in first trip to NCAAs

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, May 12, 2004

After a long journey, the greatest season in Notre Dame women’s golf history came to an end Saturday. The Irish, who were seeded No. 19 in their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, finished 17th in the regional field of 21 teams. With their three-round total of 952, the Irish finished 26 strokes behind what was needed to advance to the NCAA finals, with first-place Texas A&M recording a score of 74-over par 926. Early on, the Irish put themselves in a position to advance to the finals, as they spent the early parts of round one tied for ninth. “There was definitely a moment where we were giving it a run,” Irish coach Debby King said.Unfortunately for the Irish, the combination of a tough field of competitors and disadvantages with the weather eventually triumphed.”We had afternoon tee-times two of the three days, and it was a little wearying [teeing off] in the afternoon, especially since the wind was stronger [than in the morning],” King said.This past weekend ended a brilliant run over the final few tournaments of the season to make the NCAAs, a run that included the program’s second consecutive Big East title. “Our focus [in looking back at the season] is not on just this tournament, but on the season as a whole,” King said. “It was just an excellent season, and lots of records were broken.”Many of those records now belong to freshman Noriko Nakazaki, who, among other marks, set the program record for lowest average score over the course of a season. With rounds of 80-74-79, she broke another season record by leading the team in scoring for the eighth time in a tournament, finishing with a 233 and tying for 36th place. Stacy Brown, the other freshman on the team, finished second on the team behind Nakazaki, finishing with a total of 239 with rounds of 79-76-84.The fact that her youngest players are consistently leading the team gives King high hopes for the future.”We’re moving in the right direction,” she said.Senior co-captain Shannon Byrne ended her Notre Dame career Saturday with a spring-low score of 76. With a pair of 82s in the first and second rounds, Byrne finished with a 240 for the tournament.Junior Karen Lotta finished fourth for the Irish, with rounds of 81-80-84 to give her a total of 245. Sophomore Katie Brophy rounded out the lineup with a 252, shooting an uncharacteristic 90 in the second round to go with her 79 and 82 in the first and third round, respectively.As the season draws to an end, King hopes everyone will use the summer to build on the season while she does some work of her own.”Each of our players are going to play in three to five tournaments, and my assistant and I are going to be out recruiting for the 2005 season,” she said.With the success of such a young team, King has ambitions that this year will be the first in a string of ‘best season’s ever.'”We feel very confident that from now on, making the regionals will be a given, and our new goals will be focused on advancing to the finals,” King said.