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Home at last

Joe Meixell | Friday, April 23, 2004

For the Notre Dame women’s golf team, there’s no place like home.

The Irish haven’t lost in South Bend for the better part of two years, winning the last two tournaments held at the Warren Golf Course, including last year’s Big East championship. Notre Dame will again host the women’s Big East Championships and the team feels very good about their prospects of continuing the streak.

“We feel very confident, and we have home course advantage,” Katie Brophy said.

The tournament is a 54-hole event, beginning on Saturday with teams playing two rounds and then continuing on Sunday with the final 18 holes. Five golfers will compete for each team, with the lowest four individual scores counting towards the team total. Besides the Irish, the top three other Big East teams will be competing this weekend, including Miami, who is ranked ahead of the Irish in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index.

According to coach Debby King, the Irish have been using the week leading into the tournament to maximize their home course advantage.

“We’ve made our own Lady Irish yardage books, which are different than the ones sold in the golf shop,” King said. “They’re specific to our players, and they tell them details pertaining to how far they hit the ball, as well as the breaks of the greens.”

“We’ve been working a lot on course management, trying to get ahead of the other team since we’ve played the course thousands of times,” Karen Lotta said.

However, the team will not get a sneak preview of the exact layout of the course, including cup placement, until the official practice round on Friday.

“We don’t have any control over course setup; the Big East takes care of all that,” King said.

Despite leveling of the playing field, the Big East cannot control the weather, and the cold South Bend climate should serve as another advantage for the Irish especially against top-seeded Miami.

“I think [our advantage] comes from a combination of home court advantage and the weather,” King said. “Miami is just not used to playing in the cold.”

Members of the team also saw the weather as a positive.

“We know the weather here,” Lotta said. “Miami is a very southern school, and it’s very hot down there.”

The team has improved over the course of the spring, making noticeable strides on a weekly basis. Brophy attributes this to their practices, as well as to an improved mental side of the game that comes as a result.

“We’ve worked real hard this year, and we’re confident now,” she said.

Regardless of their morale and improvement since the beginning of the spring, Notre Dame’s hopes of a first ever NCAA tournament selection rests as much on other teams’ performances as its own this weekend. Since the Big East Tournament winner will not receive an automatic bid, the Irish will need an at large selection to advance to the NCAA Regionals.

“A lot of [this] will have to do with things out of our control, how other people across the country do compared to us,” King said.

King mentioned Nebraska, Kansas, Texas Tech, Purdue and Michigan as teams who could open the door for the Irish with weak performances, or potentially shut them out with strong ones.

Knowing that they need a good performance as well as a little help, the team’s fate will rest in the hands of five golfers this weekend.