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Women’s Golf: Holt, squad look to build upon championship appearance

Matt Unger | Thursday, August 25, 2011

After an historic 2010-11 season that culminated in the first NCAA championship appearance for Notre Dame, Irish coach Susan Holt’s squad is taking the steps to make an appearance an annual occurrence.

The Irish return three starters from last year’s Big East championship squad, including seniors Katie Allare and Becca Huffer along with sophomore Kristina Nhim. The squad earned a trip to the NCAA championship in May, where it placed 22nd after earning a fifth place finish in the NCAA Central Regional, held at the Warren Golf Course.

Of the three returning golfers, Huffer held the best 2010-11 stroke average with 74.9 strokes per round. She also placed second at the John Kirk/Panther Intercollegiate Tournament and led the team with an 8-over-par through four rounds of the NCAA championship.

Meanwhile, Allare averaged 78.3 strokes per round, while Nhim posted 76.2. Nhim also placed third in the Big East championship with a 6-over-par, missing out on first place by only one stroke. Holt said Notre Dame’s consistency and depth should play a large role in the team’s fortunes this season.

“We’re returning a dedicated and committed group of kids,” Holt said. “We won’t need to lean on any one player as one through five on the roster can produce.”

While the Irish graduated two seniors and lost its leading stroke-average player in sophomore Nicole Zhang, the team gains freshmen Ashley Armstrong and Kelli Oride.

“[Armstrong and Oride] possess junior golf tournament experience and are highly ranked players,” Holt said. “Both can make an immediate impact on our roster.”

However, because the program is so successful, it also schedules one of the nation’s most difficult slates. The team opens with the Golfweek Conference Challenge in Colorado from Sept. 19 to 21, which is exclusive to Division I conference champions from the previous season.

The Tar Heel Invitational, held from Oct. 7 to 9, will provide another challenge for the Irish, as it features SEC and ACC schools, including LSU, which finished third in the 2011 NCAA tournament.

“The challenging schedule is an indication of how far the program has come,” Holt said. “If we can compete with the top teams on our schedule, it will give us an indication of where we stand nationally.”

After they play at the Indiana University Fall Invitational in mid-October, the Irish will finish the fall portion of their schedule with the Landfall Tradition. The squad concludes its regular season with four additional tournaments in March and April.