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Lotta breaks course record

Eric Retter | Thursday, September 9, 2004

Sometimes, the best thing an athlete can do is to take some time off. For Karen Lotta, this strategy seems to have worked.After a long season last year that began in September and ended in May, Lotta took almost a month away from competitive golf to rest. The break gave Lotta the chance to recapture the passion for competition that had drawn her into sports in the first place.”It definitely got me excited to play again,” she said. “It got me ready to come back … I was ready for [golf] to start, ready to compete again.”Lotta was more than ready at the Notre Dame Women’s Invitational this past Saturday. She finished the tournament tied for second place after shooting a 54-hole total of 221. In the weekend’s final round on Sunday, she shot a 4-under-par 68, setting the Warren Golf Course record as well as a personal best. “I felt like it was my day,” Lotta said. “It was one of those days where everything goes right for you.”During her round, the record book was the furthest thing from Lotta’s mind.”I had no clue about [the course record]. I had no idea I was even close to it,” she said.Ironically, Lotta’s round couldn’t count towards the team score. After not making the scoring lineup for the Irish, which consisted of the top five qualifiers, Lotta was entered as an individual.”After qualifying, it lets you know how one day to the next makes a lot of difference in golf,” head coach Debby King said. Beyond this past tournament, Lotta has had a successful golf career at Notre Dame. She has six top-five finishes and nine top-10 finishes in NCAA events, and she has been named to the All-Big East team the past two years.The most experienced member of this year’s team, Lotta currently ranks fourth all-time at Notre Dame for lowest scoring average and is tied for eighth all time in rounds counting towards the team score. If Saturday and Sunday were any indication, she can improve her standing in both categories by the end of the year.But despite her personal achievements, Lotta remains committed to team success. In her estimation, her play serves as a means to a team-oriented end.”My goals are more along with team goals,” Lotta said. “I just hope the team does well, that’d be a good way to end [my career]. We have a better chance to go to regionals, even to go to the NCAA [finals] this year.”With all the core players from last year’s squad, which was the best in school history and the first to ever qualify for the NCAA Regionals, Lotta and her teammates have a chance to accomplish those goals and more.Many golfers, including Lotta, have the goal of not only qualifying for the NCAA Regionals but also for the NCAA finals in Sunriver, Ore. With Lotta competing for a spot on the golf course every week, the team’s chances are much improved. She was a three sport star in high school, becoming an all-conference player in both softball and tennis at Marymount High School in Los Angeles.Golf was the last sport the Lotta picked up at the age of 15, and it is now the game she loves.”The more competition, the more fun, because it puts pressure on us, and when we play better, it’s more satisfaction,” she said. “We’re definitely a better team [than we were last year], and it’s more fun for us to go into a competitive field and play better than win in an easier field.”Despite her competitive attitude, Lotta is by no means the somber member of the team. In fact, Lotta may be the glue that holds this team together, the reason that the team has such a strong chemistry. She is a respected member of team entrusted with the mighty goal of keeping golf fun.”She’s the team clown,” says King. “She keeps things lighthearted, and we really rely on her for that.”Moreover, Lotta sees it as her personal mission to keep the mood cheerful both in the locker room and on the links.”I’m more of the jokester of the team,” she said. “I just try to make people laugh and keep the good spirit of team together.”With Karen Lotta on the team, they might just laugh all the way to the NCAA Finals.