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Irish begin season at ND invitational

Joe Meixell | Friday, September 3, 2004

As the 2004-05 campaign begins, the Notre Dame women’s golf team is poised to make last season – the best in Irish history – a distant memory.

On the heels of 2003’s record success, which saw the team compete in their first-ever NCAA regionals, the Irish have lofty goals.

Last year the Irish finished ranked No. 50 in the nation, their highest placement ever. This year, they aim to finish in the top 35.

The team will get its first opportunity to reach that milestone this weekend, playing host to the fifth annual Notre Dame Invitational.

Based on history, the Irish are in a great position to take long strides this weekend, having won this event the last two seasons and going unbeaten at all other events at the Warren Golf Course over that time.

The event will consist of 54 rounds over Saturday and Sunday. Each team will be represented by five golfers, with the lowest four scores counting towards the overall score.

Leading the charge to dethrone the Irish will be Washington State, the highest ranked team in the 17-team field.

The 56th-ranked Cougars are rated one spot ahead of the Irish, who start the season at 57th, and are captained by Kim Welsh, the 23rd-best golfer in the country.

Despite the competition, Irish coach Debby King feels optimistic about the team’s chances to win again this weekend.

“Washington State is ranked ahead of us, but we should still be favored with home course advantage,” King said.

King is especially pleased considering the progress the team made over the summer. Juniors Katie Brophy and Lauren Gebauer both qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Sophomore Noriko Nakazaki played well in qualifying, but missed the cut by three strokes.

Brophy, a team co-captain, has shown great improvement from an already very successful effort last season, and King has high expectations for her this season.

“Katie has really proven herself over the summer, as well as 2003,” King said. “Her qualifying rounds have been exceptional.”

However, King is not the only person looking for good things out of Brophy this season.

“Not only do I expect a lot out of her, but she expects a lot out of herself,” King said about her co-captain.

Along with co-captain Suzy Hayes, Brophy will work to guide Notre Dame to a third straight tournament title this weekend.

Joining them will be Gebauer and talented freshman Jane Lee, who qualified as the No. 4 golfer.

“Jane is disappointed to qualify in the No. 4 spot,” King said. “Freshmen year can be a little overwhelming, but look for her to get better each time.”

Because of close competition, King will decide the fifth golfer today.