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Women’s Golf: Family inspires Nakazaki

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Spirited competition and sibling rivalries are what sparked Noriko Nakazaki’s drive and passion to play golf for the Irish.

The senior co-captain of the women’s golf team first became interested in the sport at age 11, thanks to her two older brothers. Playing the role of the young, curious sister who watched her brothers compete, Nakazaki was drawn to the game.

Nakazaki’s parents asked her to pick just one out of her many athletic endeavors.

“I played many different sports, such as swimming, tennis and cross country,” she said. “But my parents encouraged me to stick with one sport, and I chose golf.”

It is fortunate for the Irish that she listened.

Nakazaki lettered all four years in golf at Hoffman Estates High School in Hanover Park, Ill., where she served as captain her senior year. She was the cornerstone of her team, earning all-conference honors, and was recognized as the team MVP in each of her four years in high school.

As soon as she set foot on campus, Nakazaki began assaulting the record books, setting two school records in her first tournament with the Irish. At the Cougar Classic, she scored a then-record 69 in the first round – the lowest in school history – and shot an unprecedented one-over par 217 for 54 holes.

The senior continues to cement her legacy in Irish history through her dominant play. She’s earned two-time All-Big East selections along with many more school records.

Nakazaki has also learned to balance the demands of being a Notre Dame student and athlete. She proved her success in both arenas when she was named a Big East Academic All-Star in the 2004-05 season.

“Receiving education at an institution like the University of Notre Dame means a lot to me not only because I learned a lot about finance and the business world, but also because it prepared me to be in the real world,” Nakazaki said. “Education gave me the power to make choices in my life.”

Much of her success both on the course and in the classroom can be attributed to her stringent, precise work ethic.

“Whether it is golf or academics, I always strive for the best and perfection,” Nakazaki said.

To pinpoint where this determination and resolve comes from, Nakazaki credits her mother, Ritsuko Nakazaki.

“My mother has been a role model for me,” she said. “She taught me to work hard and to appreciate others.”

Although Noriko Nakazaki admits that one day she would aspire to “be on the LPGA tour and become the world’s best player,” she is currently focused on one goal – to golf at the NCAA regional, with hopes of advancing to the final.

But no matter how the season ends for Nakazaki, she will always have her family to thank for her involvement in the sport she loves.