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ND Women’s Golf: Irish to tee off in Tennessee

By Greg Hadley | Friday, September 20, 2013

It may not be a conference or regional championship, but the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship in Knoxville, Tenn. will still be one of Notre Dame’s toughest tests of the year.

Starting Friday and continuing through Sunday, the tournament features an impressive 17-team field that includes Arkansas and Tulane, both of which are ranked in the Golf World Preseason Division I rankings. Other competitors in the field include Michigan, South Carolina, Mississippi State and host Tennessee.

“It certainly is a competitive field, and we’ll be challenged by many teams,” Irish coach Susan Holt said. “We’re always trying to win, and early in the year, it’s hard to tell how good everyone really is, with new players and all. Ultimately, the team that plays the golf course is the team that wins.”

The Irish are coming off a third place finish at the Mary Fossum Invitational at Forest Akers West Golf Course in East Lansing, Mich. Despite the team’s solid finish, Holt said she still sees plenty of room for improvement.

“As a team, we need to be more consistent,” Holt said. “Our scores are too spread out. We need to tighten up overall. We do have the talent and ability, we just need to execute.”

Consistency will be key on the historic Cherokee Country Club, which was founded in 1907. Although the Irish have played in the Championship before, this will be the first year Cherokee has hosted the invitational and the first time Notre Dame has ever competed on the course. Still, Holt is optimistic about how her team will fare.

“It’s supposed to be a very good golf course,” Holt said of Cherokee. “It’ll be a new look for us, but I’m sure it will have a lot of character, so I’m looking forward to getting down there and seeing how our game matches up.”

Several Irish golfers, including junior captain Ashley Armstrong, are off to hot starts and will be in the mix for the individual tournament title. Armstrong finished tied for second in the individual competition at the Mary Fossum Invitational.

“Ashley was coming off an injury at Michigan State,” Holt said. “She was relieved and excited that she could play, and she went out there and pounded it out. She’s a grinder, and she has a complete game, which shows in that she was able to still be competitive.”

In the squad’s search for consistency, players can look to Armstrong for an example of steady play, Holt said.

“Our whole team can learn from [Armstrong] moving forward,” Holt said. “What it comes down to is you just need to find a way to compete.”

Another Irish golfer who has gotten off to a good start is junior Kelli Oride, who recorded top-15 finishes in both of Notre Dame’s tournaments this season.

“Kelli is off to a fantastic start,” Holt said. “She recommitted herself to her game this summer, and it’s really showed. I’m happy for her that it’s paid off so far.”

The Irish begin play at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship at Cherokee Country Club in Knoxville, Tenn., today at 10:10 a.m.

Contact Greg Hadley at ghadley@nd.edu