Sept. 9, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Irish women’s golf team opens the 2009-10 season at the Mary Fossum Invitational in East Lansing, Mich. on Saturday, September 12. The two-day event, which features two rounds of play on Saturday and a closing 18 holes on Sunday, will be hosted by Michigan State University at the Forest Akers West Golf Club, a par-72 course that stands at 6,236 yards in length.
The five players comprising the Irish lineup in East Lansing, Mich. will be seniors Annie Brophy (Spokane, Wash./Gonzaga Prep) and Kristin Wetzel (Middletown, N.Y./Hilton Head Prep), juniors So-Hyun Park (Seoul, South Korea/Bradenton Prep) and Katie Conway (Wading River, N.Y.) as well as sophomore Becca Huffer (Denver, Colo./Littleton).
“We have a solid five going on the trip to Michigan State and there were only four stokes between the No. 1 and No. 4 players in our qualifying rounds,” head coach Susan Holt said. “They all played the course last season and certainly had success there with Park shooting a minus-four 68 in the second round, Brophy and Huffer shooting final round 71’s and Conway shooting a 73 in the first round, so they all know they can score on the course [Forest Akers West],” Holt added.
Brophy returns to anchor the Irish lineup. Since arriving on campus in the fall of 2006, she has participated in each of Notre Dame’s 96 competitive rounds, with 82 of those rounds counting towards the team’s score. The three-time All-BIG EAST performer also carries a 76.95 stroke average, the third best career mark in program history.
Joining Brophy as top returnees are Park and Huffer. Park, who became the program’s first All-American honoree following a stellar freshman season, owns Notre Dame’s best career stroke average with a 74.82 mark through two seasons of play. Park has also contributed 62 (of a possible 65) rounds counted towards team scoring and the two-time medalist earned All-BIG EAST honors in 2008 and 2009. Huffer arrived on campus last fall and promptly exceeded the expectations that come with being one of the top recruits in the country. She earned 2009 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year honors after leading the Irish in season stroke average with a 75.55 mark.
“I think our greatest asset this year is going to be the depth of our team and the competitive experience of our team. We’ve got people in key positions for us that have basically played in every tournament since they have been here in Annie and So-Hyun in particular,” Holt mused. “And certainly last season Becca got a ton of tournament experience for a freshman and that will go a long way as well.”
Notre Dame’s depth goes far beyond Brophy, Park and Huffer and competition for starting places in each tournament should prove fierce with veterans Julie Kim (Bayside, N.Y./Bayside), Wetzel, Conway and Katie Allare (Phoenix, Ariz./Xavier Prep) each looking to make their mark. Wetzel enters her senior season carrying a 78.01 stroke average (eighth best in program history), having played in 25 tournaments. Kim has fought through injuries and after returning to the Irish lineup for last season’s NCAA Regional, she will be looking to make the most of her senior season. Conway played in 11 tournaments as a freshman and eight more as a sophomore. Through 19 starts and 56 rounds, she has a 77.50 stroke average, sixth best in the Notre Dame record book. As a sophomore, Allare will be looking to make her first tournament start.
“Wetzel and Conway have played in almost 90% of our tournaments since they got here,” Holt commented. “I think we have a really solid five going out to compete and we know what each player is capable of so it’s a matter of showing up each time we compete and getting it done.”
In addition to having a talented squad with a large amount of tournament experience, Holt’s team had the added benefit of playing five preseason rounds of golf on some the world’s best courses when the team visited Ireland in early August. The trip allowed the Irish to sharpen their games heading into the 2009 fall season as they took on famed courses at Waterville, Tralee, the Killarney Fish and Game Club, Old Head and Ballybunion.
“The Ireland trip gave all our players a chance to get out and play some golf on five consecutive days; some of our players hadn’t played a whole lot this summer so it gave them a jumpstart on playing competitive golf again,” Holt said. “I think it was such an extreme version of golf that they really enjoyed it and they have only great things to say about the trip and coming together as a team.”
The Irish enter the 2009-10 season looking to continue their recent trend of qualifying for NCAA Regional play, having made back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Midwest regional for just the second time in program history in 2008 and 2009. And, with three of last season’s top four performers returning, the Irish are optimistic as they work towards regaining the BIG EAST title and making it out of NCAA regional play for the first time in program history.
THE COMPETITION: 17 teams will comprise the Mary Fossum Invitational tournament field. The teams participating include (NGCA rankings in parentheses): Eastern Michigan, Ferris State, Grand Valley State, Indiana University, Iowa, James Madison, Kentucky, Michigan (Receiving Votes), Michigan State (20), Minnesota, Northwestern, Notre Dame (Receiving Votes), Oakland, Ohio University, Purdue (12), Toledo and Western Michigan.
THE MARY FOSSUM INVITATIONAL: Notre Dame will be appearing in the Mary Fossum Invitational for the second consecutive season. At last year’s event, the Irish finished third out of 12 teams by carding an 893, two strokes behind co-Champions Michigan State and Kent State. Huffer was Notre Dame’s top finisher, turning in a 10th-place performance with a 224 (+8). Current team members Park (225/t-11th), Brophy (225/t-11th), Conway (232/t-22nd) and Wetzel (235/t-36th) also participated in last season’s Mary Fossum Invitational.
The Mary Fossum Invitational has been played 26 times since the first edition (then called the Michigan State Invitational) was played in 1978. Notre Dame has participated a total of 15 times, with last season’s third place showing marking Notre Dame’s best finish at the event. In 2003, Noriko Nakazaki earned Notre Dame’s best individual finish when she fired a 225 to tie for third.
FORMAT: Each team’s lineup will be comprised of five golfers with the lowest four scores for each round counting towards the overall team score. The tournament will consist of 54 holes featuring 36-holes (rounds one and two) of play on Saturday before the final 18-holes will be played on Sunday, September 13. Both days of play feature 8:30 a.m. start times.
RESULTS: Live hole-by-hole scoring of the Mary Fossum Invitational will be available through Golfstat. To access the site go to http://www.golfstatresults.com, while daily recaps will be posted on und.com.
NEXT UP: Notre Dame travels to Lexington, Ky. for the Bettie Lou Evans Invitational, hosted by Kentucky. The three-day tournament will be played from Friday, Sept. 25 through Sunday, Sept. 27 at the UK Golf Club.
— ND —