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ND WOMEN’S GOLF: Nakazaki leads Irish to big win

Chris Khorey | Monday, September 12, 2005

The hard work paid off for Noriko Nakazaki.

The Irish junior, who practiced all summer in lieu of a paying job, shot a 223 over three rounds Saturday and Sunday to share the tournament championship and lead her team to a nine-stroke victory over a 17-team field at the Notre Dame Invitational.

Irish coach Debby King was not surprised by Nakazaki’s success.

“Noriko is probably one of the most dedicated people I’ve ever met,” she said. “She’s destined for greatness because she works hard at it.”

Indiana’s Shannon Johnson also shot a 223 to tie Nakazaki for the title. The Hoosiers finished tied for tenth.

Nakasaki, who became the first Irish player since Rebecca Rogers in 2000 to finish first in the ND Invitational, shot a 72 and a 73 in the first two rounds of competition, followed by a 78 on Sunday.

“The first 36 holes I was consistent, and the last round I only had one bad hole,” Nakasaki said.

The junior was not fazed by her success, however. She noted at least one area of her game that needed improvement.

“I really have to work on my sand shot,” she said. “I was blading it a little bit.”

Other scoring players for the Irish included senior Katie Brophy with a 236, junior Stacy Brown with a 237, senior Suzie Hayes with a 238 and sophomore Jane Lee with a 239.

Five other Irish players – Lisa Maunu, Sarah Bassett, Alejandra Diaz-Calderon, Lauren Gebauer and Courtney Sullivan – competed in the tournament as individuals. Maunu and Gebauer, who shot a 234 and a 237, respectively, were in the top-five scores for the Irish.

King said good rounds by non-scoring players are indicative of a deep roster.

“That happens to us a lot because we’re a very deep team,” she said. “It’s very hard to choose five because we’re such a deep team.”

King said she hopes the victory will spur the Irish to a successful season in 2005-06.

“This is what we hoped for,” she said. “We wanted to start out our season with a win.”

The tournament marked the last Notre Dame Invitational for Illinois coach Paula Smith. The Hall of Famer, who has coached the Illini for 28 years, will retire after the season. She was honored by King at the tournament awards ceremony.

“Paula’s one of the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever met, and she will be greatly missed in the coaching field,” King said of her longtime rival.

Toledo finished second in the tournament, followed by Big East member Georgetown. Bradley placed fourth, with Eastern Michigan only one stroke behind. Western Michigan and Xavier tied for sixth with team scores of 950 with Illinois just one stroke behind them. Yale, the only Ivy League school in the field, finished eighth, followed immediately by Winthrop.

Indiana and Butler tied for tenth. Boston College, Bucknell, Western Illinois, IUPUI and St. Mary’s rounded out the field.