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ND Women’s Golf: Summer trip to Ireland inspires golfers for 2009

Nathaniel Lee | Thursday, September 10, 2009

Notre Dame will kick off its season this weekend at the Mary Fossum Invitational with a little extra Irish spirit. That’s because the team took a preseason trip to the Emerald Isle to play five of the country’s historic golf courses.

“When I arrived here three years ago as the head coach, taking the team to Ireland was something I discussed during my interview and really wanted to make happen,” Irish coach Susan Holt said.

After a long day of travel, in which sophomore standout Becca Huffer was nearly lost en route, the team settled into their lodging in the town of Shannon. After enjoying a breakfast that included some unique local cuisine, some sightseeing and a team-improvised rendition of “The Sound of Music” in the green hills, the golfers got down to business.

The squad tackled Waterville in their first round of golf in Ireland. Since opening in 1973, many elite professionals have found their way to the Waterville course, including Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Mark O’Meara and Tiger Woods, all of whom prepared there for the 1998 British Open, which O’Meara eventually captured.

“The course itself is indescribable. This links-style course was right along the water with breathtaking views on every hole,” senior Annie Brophy said. “One of my favorite holes, number 12, was deemed the ‘Mass Hole’ because in the 18th century when Catholics were being persecuted, the Irish would gather in a small vale to hold Mass in secret. It’s incredible to be visiting Ireland as an Irish Catholic attending an Irish Catholic school. The history is unbelievable and it is truly is a blessing to be here.”

On the next day, the team took on the Old Course of Tralee in the only competitive round of the trip. The Tralee Golf Club in southwestern Ireland is known as one of the most spectacularly beautiful golf courses in the world. The Notre Dame golfers dueled an assembled group of college-aged male and female members of Tralee.

“The views were truly incredible,” sophomore Katie Allare said. “Across the water, we could see blankets of clouds hugging the mountainside, and, although everything looked incredibly tranquil, it was maybe the windiest day I’ve ever spent on the golf course. I could see my ball wobbling back and forth as I prepared to putt, and there were times when my caddy had me aiming thirty yards left of the green.”

On their third day of play, the Irish traveled to the Killarney Golf & Fishing Club. Nestled amidst the splendor of the Lakes of Killarney in the shadow of the majestic Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range, the Killeen Course is also rated amongst the world’s top courses.

It is a fishing club as well as a golf course, and members are able to go out and fish on the lake. Members are allowed to catch one fish per day, and are then invite to cook and eat it with other members on an island in the lake’s center.

The following day, the Irish took to the famed Old Head Golf Links, which is considered one of the most remarkable developments in the history of golf. Situated on cliffs overlooking the Atlantic, with views unrivaled in terms of drama and beauty, the course rises hundreds of feet above the coast and is surrounded by the ocean on all sides. Eight of the holes play immediately upon the cliff tops, providing a thrilling test of skill and focus.

“The views at Old Head were an experience of a lifetime,” junior So-Hyun Park said. “The entire course is basically surrounded by the ocean and every tee box left us in awe.”

The Irish rounded out the trip at the Old Course at the Ballybunion Golf Club. The course has been rated one of the top 10 golf courses in the world and is a true seaside links, meaning it is virtually treeless with a distinct lack of man-made influences.

“Ballybunion is an amazing golf course. It was challenging and fun to play … of course it would have been more fun if I had been able to hit it a little straighter,” senior Julie Kim said. “The wind started to pick up like crazy and the greens and holes all of a sudden became narrow and more difficult to play.”

For Holt, the trip was everything she had hoped for, and more.

“This trip exceeded my expectations in every way,” she said. “From the driver/ tour guide that was with our group every mile, to the spectacular golf, breathtaking countryside and exceptional dining, this has been a trip of a lifetime for all of us that shared the experience.”

The squad took a little time to enjoy the Irish culture and sights before trekking back to the States. Not only did the experience improve their team bonds, but the excellent golf should have them looking sharp when they head to East Lansing this weekend to open the competitive season.