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Women’s Golf: Irish win third straight Big East title

Michael Blasco | Tuesday, April 22, 2008

After dominating the competition through the first two rounds of the Big East Championship Tournament, No. 25 Notre Dame cruised through the final round to capture the program’s third conference title in six years.

The Irish lead throughout the three-day tournament, which was held at the par-72, 6,080 yard Elk Run Golf Club in Batavia, Ohio, and shot a final round-best 302 to clinch the victory. Notre Dame sophomore Annie Brophy earned medalist honors for the first time in her career, leading the field with a 6-over par 222, while Irish freshman So-Hyun Park shot an 8-over par 224 to finish second. Overall, four Notre Dame golfers finished in the top five of the field. Brophy reaffirmed the importance of the team effort in the victory.

“To win conference as a team is great because we’ve worked really hard for this,” Brophy said. “As an individual, it also feels great. We all played really hard. We played one hole at a time. I know that sounds clichéd, but it’s true.”

Behind the Irish (899), No. 28 Louisville (908) and Cincinnati (908) rounded out the podium ahead of the seven-team field. Notre Dame shot the three lowest team rounds of the tourney (296, 301, 302), while Cardinals freshman Sara-Maude Juneau shot a third-round, even-par 72 to stake out the lowest 18-hole score of the week.

The young Irish squad thoroughly outplayed the competition, with every Notre Dame golfer finishing in the top 15 overall. Behind Brophy and Park’s 1-2 finish, junior captain Lisa Maunu and sophomore Kristin Wetzel carded twin 11-over par 227s to finish tied for fourth. Maunu led after the first round, but bogeyed four of her final seven holes of the tournament to slip to fourth. Freshman Katie Conway added a final-round 77 to her previous scores to finish a respectable 17-over par, tied for 15th overall.

The conference title caps an Irish season marked by unprecedented success. Notre Dame, who opened the 2007-2008 season with three straight tournament victories, have finished in the top five in nine of ten tournaments this season, with the Big East Tournament win being their fifth first-place finish. Freshman So Hyun Park, ranked No.14 in the country, has led the Irish, her scoring average of 73.12 a program-record; she also recorded two first-place finishes this season. Junior captain Lisa Maunu has contributed three podium finishes, including one first-place finish. Notre Dame head coach Susan Holt attributed the tournament victory to the team’s consistent success throughout the season.

“Everything they’ve done this year has been a momentum builder for this week,” Holt said. “They had pressure on them because they were the team to beat coming in. I was just really proud of them because they really hung in there. It was a good team effort with the way the scoring worked out. They all played a role and we needed all of them to show up and they did.”

The Irish hit the links again May 20 for their final tournament, the NCAA Championship in Albuquerque, New Mexico; the squad earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament through the Big East tournament victory.