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ND Women’s Golf: Freshman Nhim leads team to fourth title

Vicky Jacobsen | Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Freshman Kristina Nhim insists that the pressure of being atop the leaderboard did not affect her play as she led the No. 25 Irish to their fourth Big East conference title.

In fact, Nhim, who finished third overall, was not aware that she was even one of the leaders.

“I had no idea I was near the lead,” she said. “I had some really unlucky breaks in the beginning of my round, so I actually counted myself out of it.”

Nhim was tied for first place at five over par going into the last hole, which she bogeyed.

“I didn’t know until I finished my last hole that I missed out on the playoff by one. Then I was super upset, because I thought Louisville caught up to us, not that I missed out on first. Then I realized that I lost on the last hole, but I got over it,” Nhim said. “Winning with the team is way better.”

The conference championship, the first for Notre Dame since 2008, was especially sweet as it came at the expense of rival No. 36 Louisville, who came into the Big East championship as the two-time defending champion.

“This win was really big for us,” senior captain Katie Conway said. “Louisville was the two time defending champion going into the week, and we’ve been preparing to earn back the title all season.”

The senior golfers were proud to finish their Big East careers with a title of their own.

“On a personal level, this championship meant more to me than it did in previous years because it was my final time teeing it up in Big East play,” Conway said. “Winning championships is the way you leave your mark on a program. The team worked hard to leave that mark.”

Notre Dame finished with a total of 902 strokes, 13 fewer than runner-up Louisville. The 13-stroke spread is the fourth-largest margin of victory in the history of the Big East tournament. Host South Florida was third with a grand total of 934 shots, followed by Georgetown with 951.

AnnaKarin Ljungstrom of Louisville and Harin Lee of St. John’s needed a playoff to determine the Big East individual champion after both finished with a three-round total of 221 strokes (five over par). Lee eventually defeated Ljungstrom after four playoff holes. 

Nhim finished just one stroke behind them at six over par, and Irish junior Becca Huffer came in fourth overall with a stroke total of 223 (seven over par). Senior So-Hyun Park took seventh place with a score of 229 (13 over par), Conway finished in 11th after shooting 233 (17 over par) over three rounds, and freshman Nicole Zhang wrapped up her first Big East Championship appearance tied for 12th with a score of 234 (18 over par).

While Notre Dame put on an impressive show on the Palm Harbor, Fla., course, the Irish will not grow complacent with their success.

“Besides winning the tournament, we were able to take away from this competition that we could’ve done much better since we left a lot of shot out there all three days,” Park said. “I think we knew that it was our tournament to win, we just had to prove it.”

“We’re really excited for the rest of the season, especially hosting regionals at home on the Warren,” Conway said. “If we play the way we’re capable of playing, we should definitely be making a trip to nationals.”

The Irish will enjoy the home-course advantage when they host the NCAA Central Regional championship at Warren Golf Course from May 5 to May 7.