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ND Women’s Golf: Irish claim eighth after tough first day

Vicky Jacobsen | Monday, April 4, 2011

After a disappointing opening round that left Notre Dame in 17th place in the field of 23 teams, the Irish battled back to claim eighth place in the Liz Murphy Collegiate Classic. Consistent improvement throughout the weekend propelled the Irish past the twin challenges of a new scoring system and a highly talented field.

In typical college golf tournaments, three competitors from three different schools play together, but this weekend all five members of the team competed together. The four best scores from each were counted towards the team total.

While the unique scoring format required some adjustments, it also proved to be an enjoyable experience for the team members.

“This tournament was one of the best experiences I’ve had in college golf,” senior captain Katie Conway said. “Having the opportunity to watch my teammates compete and witness their determination during actual competition was awesome. We were able to feed off of each other and ride waves of momentum from a birdie putt dropping or a clutch par save finding the hole. It was a lot of fun to fight for every shot together.”

Waves of good momentum were integral to No. 26 Notre Dame’s effort. The Irish followed up a first day tally of plus-14 with an impressive second round of two-under-par in which every golfer improved her score from the day before. The Irish played even better Saturday by shooting a collective four-under-par Sunday for a final tally of eight-over 872.

The competitive field included five teams ranked in the top ten and seven more ranked in the top 25. No. 2 Alabama took first place, while No. 4 Duke, No. 5 Purdue, No. 12 Arkansas and No. 28 Florida rounded out the top five. Notre Dame out-dueled six higher-ranked teams, including No. 6 LSU and No. 7 Virginia.

“The field strength was stronger than even an NCAA regional championship, and being able to come back like we did to beat a number of highly ranked teams proved that we can compete with the best,” Conway said.

Notre Dame was led by freshman Nicole Zhang, who finished the weekend tied for 15th place at eight-over-par. Conway was second for the Irish, finishing with a final total of 226 strokes, good for a tie for 32nd place. Senior So-Hyun Park tied for 35th place after shooting 227 and junior Becca Huffer tied for 63rd place overall with a total of 232. Freshman Kristina Nhim rounded out the Notre Dame finishers in 73rd place after shooting 233.

Conway said she believes the unique experience will prove beneficial as they prepare for the championship season.

“This tournament wasn’t just about keeping ourselves going individually, but rather keeping each other going as a team,” Conway said. “It was a really great team bonding experience, and will definitely help us as we prepare for Big East.”

The Irish will next hit the links April 17 to compete in the Big East championship in Palm Harbor, Fla.