Junior Noriko Nakazaki and the Fighting Irish begin their pursuit of a third straight NCAA bid this weekend at the Notre Dame Invitational.

Fighting Irish Heading Back To NCAA Central Regional

April 25, 2005

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the second time in school history the Notre Dame women’s golf team will be teeing it up in the NCAA tournament. The Fighting Irish, who made their first appearance in the NCAAs one year ago, received an at-large bid to the 2005 national tournament on Monday afternoon. The Irish will travel to Lubbock, Texas to take part in the central regional at the Jerry S. Rawls Golf Course May 5-7. Notre Dame won the central regional preview at that same course back in September. The NCAA field is comprised of 63 teams and nine individuals divided into three regions. The Irish are the 20th seed out of the 21-team field at the central regional.

The Fighting Irish had a disappointing showing at the BIG EAST Championship over the weekend at the Warren Golf Course. Poor weather conditions reduced the tournament from 54 holes to 18 and also led to high scores across the board. Notre Dame fired a 338 (+50) in Saturday’s round of play to place third out of the four-team field. A bright spot for the Irish was senior Karen Lotta (Los Angeles, Calif./Marymount) as she captured co-medalist honors with a five-over par 77. Sophomore Noriko Nakazaki (Hanover Park, Ill./Hoffman Estates) joined her teammate Lotta as an all-BIG EAST member with a 13-over par 85, which placed her in a three-way tie for sixth.

“I was nervous about our (NCAA) chances after we had a poor round over the weekend,” commented Irish head coach Debby King. “I felt good about our situation going into the conference tournament. I don’t even think they (the NCAA selection committee) considered our round that we played on Saturday.”

Despite the conference tournament showing, Notre Dame boasted a solid resume for the NCAA committee to evaluate. The Irish captured four team wins throughout the 2004-05 campaign, including the Jeannine McHaney Invitational which served as the central regional preview in Lubbock, Texas Sept. 24-26. A 36-hole total of 593 (+17) gave Notre Dame the victory over the 18-team field. The other wins occurred at the Shoot-Out at Legends (Oct. 4-5), St. Croix Collegiate Classic (March 11-13) and the Indiana Invitational (April 2-3). Notre Dame is currently 46th in the latest golfstat.com rankings and owns a 306.47 stroke average.

“Making it to regional is what we’ve been planning on doing the entire season,” stated King. “The next step that we want to make is getting to finals. Having played in the regional last year is a plus for us. Plus we’ve already played on the (Rawls) course and won there but the field wasn’t as strong as it will be for regional.”

Leading the charge for the Irish all season have been lineup mainstays Nakazaki and Katie Brophy (Spokane, Wash./Gonzaga Prep). Brophy won the individual crown at the McHaney Invtational/Central Regional Preivew with a three-under par 141 for the two rounds of play. The junior co-captain leads the team with a 76.25 scoring average, while Nakazaki is not far behind with a 76.53 mark, which includes a team-best 77.00 average this spring. Lotta has also played well during the spring season, including her first collegiate win at the BIG EAST Championship. The senior is shooting at a 78.75 clip this spring, which places her third on the team. Other key contributors for the Irish have been freshman Jane Lee (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif./Peninsula), sophomore Stacy Brown (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands) and junior co-captain Suzie Hayes (Dublin, Ireland/Loreto College), who have appeared in 11, 10 and eight events, respectively, this season.

At the 2004 central regional, the Irish entered the field as the No. 19 seed among the 21-team field. The Notre Dame squad consisting of Nakazaki, Brown, Lotta, Brophy and departed senior Shannon Byrne turned in rounds of 319, 312 and 321 for a 952 total to place 17th at Illinois State’s University Golf Course in Normal, Illinois.

“It’s awesome that we can go back to a course where we had success back in the fall,” said Nakazaki. “Plus we have experience from playing in the regional last year so we should be more relaxed this year. The field will be tough but we just hope to go down there and play well like we did in the fall. We want to shoot better and beat our previous score from down there. We are also more focused on winning this year and making it to finals as opposed to last year where we were focused on just qualifying for regional.”

The top eight teams from each of the three regions advance to the NCAA Championship at the Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Oregon May 17-20. For more information log onto ncaasports.com and und.com or call the Notre Dame athletics hotline at 574-631-3000.

2005 NCAA CENTRAL REGIONAL FIELD (in order by seed):

1. Auburn, 2. Arizona State, 3. New Mexico, 4. LSU, 5. Wake Forest, 6. Texas, 7. Missouri, 8. Arkansas, 9. Michigan, 10. Tulsa, 11. TCU, 12. Southern Methodist, 13. Purdue, 14. Michigan State, 15. Kent State, 16. Baylor, 17. Texas A&M, 18. South Florida, 19. Texas Tech, 20. Notre Dame, 21. Long Island.


1. Louise Kenney (Iowa State), 2. Emily Milberger (Oklahoma), 3. Merynn Ito (Nebraska).