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ND Women’s Golf: Squad impresses in the classroom and on the links

Vicky Jacobsen | Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The women’s golf team enjoyed success on the course this past fall, compiling a record of 53-11-0 and ending the season with a No. 17 ranking. But the squad also impressed in the classroom, finishing the fall semester with a grade-point average (GPA) of 3.534, the highest of any Notre Dame varsity team.

“It feels great to have complied the highest team GPA for the fall semester, as it was our main academic goal for this year,” freshman Nicole Zhang said. “All of us on the team work really hard on both academics and golf, and it has paid off.”

The golf team has turned academic excellence into a habit, winning the Top Team GPA award twice since Susan Holt became was named head coach in 2006. The squad has finished with the second highest GPA of all Irish varsity teams, and has never finished a semester lower than fourth in the standings. Members of the team have been named Big East Academic All-Stars 19 times during Holt’s tenure.

“The team performs very consistently in the classroom, and I think it is just the culture that has been created,” Holt said. “I am most proud of the accountability our players have for themselves and to each other to succeed in the classroom.”

While schoolwork is clearly a priority for the Irish, balancing the demands of challenging coursework with the golf course does not always come easy.

The golf team competes in both the fall and spring semesters, so there is no off season when the golfers can focus more energy on their classes. Tournaments are often held as far away as Florida and Hawaii.

“On the road, it is pretty hard to find time to study or do homework because we golf from sunrise to sunset on the 36-hole days, and we have to make sure we go to bed early and get a lot of practice in,” Zhang said. “We try to do as much homework as we can before we leave for tournaments, but we usually hit the books when we are on the plane and in the car.”

Senior Katie Conway agreed with Zhang’s assessment.

“Our biggest challenge is probably staying awake long enough to study after our rounds,” Conway said.

The small size of the golf team — usually just six to eight golfers — makes competing for Top Team GPA honors more difficult.

“There is no room for anyone to have a bad GPA. If so much as one person does badly, the team really suffers and there is no hope of winning the [award],” Holt said. “There is pressure to do well and not let your teammates down.”

But the close-knit atmosphere — and peer pressure — that comes from being a member of such a small team is

also one of the squad’s greatest assets.

“The upperclassmen have had a positive influence on me and have set a good example because when I feel like relaxing or sleeping, I see them working and studying hard, and so I feel obligated to do the same,” Zhang said.

The team begins every semester with a meeting to set athletic and academic goals, and every semester the group resolves to win Top Team GPA honors. But members of the squad believe that this goal would be unattainable if it weren’t for the drive and strong work ethic of each individual Irish golfer.

“Having the highest GPA is something we are very proud of, and while it was a goal of ours at the beginning of the season, it’s more a product of our individual goals and motivation to be successful,” Conway said.