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ND set to face nation’s top schools

Matt Unger | Friday, October 7, 2011

Notre Dame will get a strong indication of where it stands amongst the nation’s elite teams at the Tar Heel Invitational this weekend.

The tournament — arguably the most competitive one on Notre Dame’s schedule — features 13 teams ranked in the top-25 in the most recent Golf World Coaches’ Poll, including No. 3 LSU, No. 4 Alabama and No. 5 North Carolina.

Despite the top-tier competition, Irish coach Susan Holt said she is optimistic about her team’s ability to compete in the tournament.

“[The Invitational] presents a tremendous opportunity for our program to improve in the national rankings,” Holt said.

The course plays at par 72 and boasts a 6,285-yard layout. Coach Holt said the course’s greens and fairways are larger than normal.

“While off the tee, the course is wide open. It can be more challenging for players to stay focused on their targets,” Holt said.

The Irish, unranked in the latest poll, look to improve upon their ninth place finish in the mid-September Golfweek Conference Challenge. Although this 18-team tournament only featured three ranked squads, two encouraging signs emerged from the final round of play. Senior captain Becca Huffer shot even for the tournament’s final round while freshman Kelli Oride’s finished at +1.

Huffer uncharacteristically struggled in her first two rounds of the tournament, shooting 6-over and 9-over, respectively. Huffer, who earned All-Big East honors in each of her three seasons with the team, was hampered by three-putts, but rebounded for a strong final round.

Meanwhile, Oride tied for 32nd in the Golfweek Conference Challenge at +12 for the best finish by an Irish golfer. Oride and fellow freshman Ashley Armstrong both made their Irish debuts at the Golfweek Conference Challenge.

For the Irish to improve this weekend, Holt said they need to take better advantage of birdie opportunities.

“Our players need to manage their game to the best of their abilities and eliminate three-putts, which really hurt us in the last tournament,” Holt said.

Following the Tar Heel Invitational, the Irish will compete at the Indiana University Fall Invitational from October 17 to 18 in Carmel, Indiana.

The 54-hole tournament starts Friday morning and concludes Sunday at the UNC Finley Golf Course.

Contact Matt Unger at [email protected]