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ND WOMEN’S GOLF: Irish finish 8th at Ohio State Invite

Chris Khorey | Monday, April 18, 2005

Battling tough competition and what coach Debbie King called “the hardest course we’ll play all year,” the women managed an eighth place finish the Lady Buckeye Invitational at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course Michigan State topped the 15-team field, which featured six teams ranked in last week’s golfstat.com top 50, including the No. 46 ranked Irish. The Spartans, who came into the tournament ranked No.43 by golfstat, edged out No. 14 ranked Ohio State by nine shots.The Irish came into the tournament with a combined one finish ahead of the five teams ahead of them in golfstat’s rankings in the Lady Buckeye field. They failed to improve on that in finishing eighth and dropped to a combined 1-15-1 against Kent State, Northwestern, Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan State.Strangely, coming into the Lady Buckeye, the Irish had never finished behind any of the teams in the field ranked behind them in the golfstat rankings. This streak came to an end, however, as seventh-place Western Michigan and Iowa, who finished a surprising third, both placed higher than Notre Dame.”We’re disappointed,” King said. “But Western Michigan and Iowa careered.They played the best tournament of their lives.”The Scarlet Course is universally regarded as one of the toughest in the nation, which King said affected the play by every team over the weekend.”The greens were very difficult to hit, and the length of the course was pretty long,” she said. “It was a good test of golf skills.”Junior co-captain Katie Brophy led the Irish with seven-over par 223 (73-74-76), good enough to tie for sixth place. “[The Scarlet Course] is set up for a person like Katie,” King said. “She hits a long and high ball, and that’s what you need to do at Ohio State.”Sophomore Noriko Nakazaki tallied the next lowest score, finishing with a 10-over par 226 (80-70-76) and placing 11th. Unfortunately for the Irish, their next finisher was freshman Jane Lee, 39 places and sixteen strokes behind Nakazaki.King acknowledged the gap between her top golfers and those in the next echelon.”A couple of [the other golfers] need some distance of the tee, so we have to work on that,” she said. “Also, we continue to work on putting.”Lee struggled on the first day, posting a team worst 87 in the first round, but came storming back, scoring 80 and 75 in the last two rounds to move into third place on the team.Junior Suzie Hayes finished two strokes behind Lee with a 244 (83-78-83). Senior Karen Lotta (248, 83-84-81) and sophomore Stacy Brown (250, 81-80-89) finished just behind Hayes.Despite struggling at the Lady Buckeye, Brown retained her position at fifth in the nation in fairways hit, hitting 89.7 percent.”She is a very accurate golfer,” King said. “Her shots are very straight.”Next week the Irish return home to Warren Golf Course, where they will host the Big East Championships. The tournament will be their first at home since the Notre Dame Invitational in September. “We’re looking forward to not having to hit the road again and having home course advantage,” King said.The Irish will be the prohibitive favorite to capture the Big East title. “With Miami no longer in our conference, it looks as if our next competition will be St. John’s,” King said. “We’re miles ahead of them, and we’re probably going to try some different goals other than just winning.”Still, King was cautious about being overconfident.”You don’t ever want to say never,” she said.The Big East Championship will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and continue with final round action Sunday.