Dec. 15, 2005
The Notre Dame women’s golf team continued to set program marks on the course in the fall of 2005. An even mix of experience and youth paced the Irish as they posted a 301.71 scoring-average, which is the top semester average in the history of the program. Head coach Debby King has the squad poised for another run towards the NCAA Tournament in the spring of 2006.
Junior Noriko Nakazaki (Hanover Park, Ill./Hoffman Estates) led the Fighting Irish in the fall with a 74.18 average, which is on pace to shatter her own school-record scoring average of 76.33 from her freshman campaign in 2003-04. Her career mark of 76.00 is currently tops in program history as well.
Even with her prior success, the junior took another step forward during the fall season. She tied Illinois State’s Samantha Richdale for the national-lead in birdies with 49 and Notre Dame ranked second nationally in that category with 160 during the fall. Nakazaki claimed the team’s only medalist finish during the fall as she placed in a tie for first at the season-opening Notre Dame Invitational, a tournament in which the Irish would claim the team title.
“Noriko has made great improvements this year,” states King. “She changed her putting grip over the summer so her scoring average has lowered. Plus, her confidence has caught up to her talent. I’ve always thought she was a great player but she never quite believed in herself until this year.”
Nakazaki’s improved play is a microcosm of the entire Notre Dame team. The Irish were close at times last season of producing solid three-round tournament efforts, yet one bad round would spoil the otherwise strong performance. So far this season the team has recorded nine rounds at or under 300, including a sub-300 mark for all three rounds of the Shoot-Out at The Legends. That effort produced a 26-over par 890 (298-297-295) total, which was one-shot away from tying the program-record total of 889.
“We had a stretch where eight out of 10 rounds were under 300 and that’s more than we’ve ever done,” says King. “I asked the team to show more emotion and passion on the golf course. Golf is a pretty mellow game, but I wanted to see some fists pumps or something that showed me their emotions out there. I think good scores come from that.”
Senior co-captain Katie Brophy (Spokane, Wash./Gonzaga Prep) registered another consistent fall campaign as she was second on the squad with a 76.00 stroke-average. She was the only member of the Irish to have all 17 rounds count towards the team’s score. The senior will be a prominent figure in the Irish lineup in what will be her final semester at Notre Dame in the spring.
Senior Lauren Gebauer (Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington) experienced her best semester on the course in the fall of 2005. Gebauer posted a scoring average of 76.82, which placed her fourth on the team and was over a three-shot improvement from her career mark heading into this season. She also established career-best marks for a single round (70/-2) and 54-hole tournament score (222/+6) this fall.
A key to the Fighting Irish success is the veteran leadership. This year’s senior class, which also includes co-captain Suzie Hayes (Dublin, Ireland/Loreto College), was the first class that King recruited at Notre Dame and together they have witnessed a major transformation in the landscape of the program.
“This class is special to me because it was my first recruiting class here,” says King. “They have been with me through the whole changing of commitment. The seniors have helped in emphasizing the point that in order to be a top-25 team you have to do a lot of work on your own outside of required practice.”
Bringing some youth to the lineup is Jane Lee (Atlanta, Ga./Peninsula (Calif.)). The sophomore has solidified a spot on the Fighting Irish travel team since arriving on campus last season. Lee has only missed one tournament during her first three semesters of action. Lee was third on the team in the fall with a 76.41 scoring-average. Her three-round total of 217 (+1) at the Las Vegas Founders Collegiate Showdown was a collegiate career-best for the sophomore and was the second-best tournament score for the Irish in the fall.
Freshman Lisa Maunu (St. Thomas, Ontario/Parkside Collegiate Institute) was a valuable member to the Irish lineup as she made an appearance in all six tournaments in the fall with five coming as a member of the scoring lineup. The rookie ended the fall on a positive note as she carded her top round of the semester with a one-over par 73 in the second and final round of the Lady Jaguar Invitational. Her top tournament came at the Shoot-Out at The Legends, where she carded a 12-over par 228.
A trip to Parrish, Fla. for the Central District Classic will get the spring season underway for Notre Dame on February 19. The Fighting Irish will be aiming for their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Notre Dame made its debut in the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship in 2004 and followed that up with another appearance in the NCAA Central Regional in May of 2005.