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ND Women’s Golf: Zhang lone bright spot for squad

Laura Coletti | Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Freshman standout Nicole Zhang had an impressive showing for Notre Dame at the Central District Invitational at the River Wilderness Course in Parrish, Fla., while the No. 15 Irish took 11th place as a team, in a field of 15.

Zhang, the No. 1 freshman in the country, completed the tournament tied for tenth in the field of 75 individuals. Zhang finished with a score of 219 (+3) over three rounds, and was able to close out the tournament with a strong final round, shooting three under par. She finished just six strokes over LSU’s Austin Ernst, who was the tournament’s top individual, finishing at three under par.

By finishing 10th, the Irish were able to improve one place from where they stood after the first two rounds. They finished ahead of No. 13 Arkansas and No. 36 Minnesota, as well as unranked Indiana, Baylor and Missouri. Notre Dame shot +40 as a team, and scored 36 more than champions Iowa State with a team total of 904. Senior captain Katie Conway said that the team was disappointed, but not discouraged, with their performance.

“Like every tournament, we had our sights set on a win, and based on the current rankings, we were definitely one of the top contenders going into the week,” Conway said. “While we fell short of this goal by quite a bit, I think we took a lot away from the event as a team and gained some momentum with a solid final round.”

Conway shot 236 (+20) over three rounds. Senior teammate So-Hyun Park (228, +12) and junior teammate Becca Huffer (229, +13) were top finishers for the Irish behind Zhang, ending three rounds tied for 41st and 45th, respectively.

Conway knows what the Irish need to do in order to improve and achieve their season goals.

“Although we were disappointed with our finish, we each know what we need to work on in our games individually to position ourselves for a win [at our next tournament],” Conway said. “Our team has a lot of goals for the spring season. Ultimately, we want to win Big East and earn the program’s first NCAA final’s berth. We are also looking to finish with a team scoring average of under 300,which would also be a program first, and we are on pace to achieve this.”

The Irish will try to rebound from their performance when they play in the Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational in Keneohe, Hawaii, on March 14.