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ND Women’s Golf: Irish headed to Florida for tourney

Vicky Jacobsen | Monday, February 21, 2011

The Notre Dame women’s golf team will escape the wet and blustery weather of South Bend as they compete in the Central District Invitational. The tournament, hosted by Michigan State, will be held at the River Wilderness Country Club in Parrish, Fla., Monday and Tuesday.

The event will be the first of the spring season for the Irish, who were 53-11 against Division I opponents this past fall. Notre Dame is currently ranked No. 15 in the country, the highest ranking in program history.

The Irish, who last competed in the Alamo Invitational last November, will attempt to continue their strong play from the fall after the long winter layoff.

“Our goals are the same as the tournaments in the fall, which is just to win and do our best,” freshman golfer Nicole Zhang said. “It’s going to be a little tough, because today [Sunday] was the first day we played on grass, but I think we’re pretty mentally strong and we’ve been preparing for a while so I think we’ll do well.”

The Irish will face stiff competition from 14 other squads, including the hosts, No. 18 Michigan State. Other ranked opponents include Kent State, Iowa State, Arkansas and LSU. Notre Dame faced other members of the Central District Invitational field 18 times during the fall season, winning 14 times.

“I think all the teams are [competitive], because it’s a pretty strong field, but in particular LSU, because they are ranked pretty high, and Arkansas is ranked ahead of us as well,” said Zhang.

The tournament will stretch over two days. The teams will each play two rounds of 18 holes eon Monday, and a third and final round on Tuesday.

The Irish squad will feature four golfers in addition to Zhang: seniors Katie Conway and So-Hyun Park, junior Becca Huffer and freshmen Kristina Nhim.

Notre Dame will hope for a strong performance from Zhang, who is currently the No. 20 ranked women’s college golfer, the highest ranking of any freshman.

Zhang said that neither she nor her teammates are worried about the pressure that comes along with a larger profile and higher rankings.

“It’s good to know your standing and it’s nice to know how all of our hard work is paying off,” Zhang said. “I think it’s fine, and it also motivates us to get to the first position.”

The Irish will tee off at 8 a.m. on Monday.