Oct. 16, 2014
Dates: Oct. 17-19, 2014
Format: 54 holes (18 holes each day)
Tee Times: Split-tee starts each day (beginning at 9 a.m. ET Friday/Saturday, 8:30 a.m. ET Sunday)
Location: Knoxville, Tenn.
Course (Par/Yardage): Cherokee Country Club (par 71/5,870 yards)
Tournament Field (current Golfstat ranking): UCF (21), Chattanooga (67), College of Charleston (65), Denver (36), Eastern Kentucky (132), East Tennessee State (95), Furman (11), Kent State (33), Louisville (40), Michigan (76), Ole Miss (92), Missouri (82), Notre Dame (31), Penn State (112), South Carolina (2), Tennessee (13) and Wisconsin (54).
Notre Dame Lineup (2014-15 stroke average): Talia Campbell (72.33), Kelli Oride (74.33), Kari Bellville (75.67), Ashley Armstrong (74.00), Jordan Ferreira (74.50)
Live Scoring: www.golfstat.com
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — As a child on the playground, you may have found yourself riding with a friend on a seesaw, occasionally even trying to find that exact point where the board pauses mid-air, with the weight evenly distributed on either end.
In some ways, the University of Notre Dame women’s golf team is in that same position, looking for the delicate balance where all five players are contributing to a low team score that puts the Fighting Irish squarely in contention for top honors in every tournament they play.
That’s the challenge Notre Dame will face this weekend when it heads to Knoxville, Tennessee, for the 18th annual Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship, which tees off Friday morning at the Cherokee Country Club (par 71/5,870 yards). The Fighting Irish are making their fourth appearance in six years at the University of Tennessee’s tournament, finishing in the top half of the field each time, including a fifth-place showing in 2010 and a seventh-place outing last year.
Through two events this season, Notre Dame has inched closer to locating that ideal balance in its scoring. Two weeks ago at the Schooner Fall Classic in Norman, Oklahoma, the Fighting Irish saw four different players card rounds in the 60s, sparking an eighth-place finish in the high-powered field while posting school records for the lowest gross scores for 18 holes (277) and 54 holes (846).
Thanks to its performance in Oklahoma, which came on the heels of a season-opening tournament win at Michigan State’s Mary Fossum Invitational, Notre Dame has checked in at No. 31 in the first Golfstat rankings of the year, which were released Wednesday.
“So far this season, I’ve been excited to see the balanced scoring we have had,” head coach Susan Holt said. “In fact, we’ve had more balance in our scores than the majority of teams on the board in the tournaments we have played. It’s encouraging to see that we do have depth in our lineup, something that’s critical to have during a long season. We’re not having to rely on a specific player to show up every round in order for the team to post a low score, and that’s a great feeling.”
One player who has set the pace for Notre Dame early on this season is junior Talia Campbell (Dallas, Texas/Ursuline Academy), who comes into this weekend’s tournament with a team-best 72.33 stroke average. Campbell also posted the second-lowest 54-hole gross score (209, -1) in school history, as well as tying the single-round gross score record (66 in the second round) on the way to a tie for 13th place at the Schooner Fall Classic.
Campbell currently is ranked 110th in the nation, according to Golfstat, a figure boosted in part by her two top-15 finishes in as many events this season (she tied for fourth at the Mary Fossum Invitational).
“To date what has impressed me the most is Talia and her steady play,” Holt said. “She is hitting a lot of greens and creating birdie chances. She leads the team in stroke average, greens in regulation (78 percent), and birdies (20), and her overall game is solid right now.”
While Campbell has been the cornerstone of Notre Dame’s early-season success, Holt feels senior captain Ashley Armstrong (Flossmoor, Ill./Homewood-Flossmoor) could be poised to help take the Fighting Irish to the next stage in their development.
A two-time Academic All-America selection, Armstrong is coming off a tie for 43rd place at the Schooner Fall Classic, bouncing back from a tough opening-round 78 with matching scores of 69 in her final two rounds to finish with a 54-hole score of 215, one stroke shy of her career best. Armstrong enters this weekend’s tournament ranked second on the team with a 74.00 stroke average.
“I think Ashley can and will play better these last two events of the fall,” Holt said. “She knows she can do better than she has so far and is determined to help her team and be the consistent performer she is capable of being.”
Notre Dame will need all five of its players to be competing at a high level when it tees off at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, with eight of the top 40 teams in the latest Golfstat rankings scheduled to participate, led by second-ranked South Carolina, No. 11 Furman and No. 13 Tennessee. There are also several other teams closely grouped around the Fighting Irish in the Golfstat rankings, giving Notre Dame a chance to move up the national ladder with a strong performance this weekend.
Arkansas won last year’s rain-shortened 36-hole Mercedes-Benz Championship, which was played at the Cherokee Country Club for the first time since a four-year stretch from 2004-07. The tournament also has been played at three other venues in the Knoxville area since the event debuted in 1997.
“We have a history of strong showings at this event and have done so on three different courses,” Holt said. “I think our past performances have been a result of playing in a field of strong teams and knowing we have to be ready to compete.”
Tennessee will provide live scoring of the Mercedes-Benz Championship through the Golfstat web site (www.golfstat.com), while daily recaps on Notre Dame’s progress will be posted on the official Fighting Irish athletics web site (www.UND.com).
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s golf program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s golf Twitter pages (@NDsidMasters or @NDwomensGolf) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the “Fan Center” pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
— Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director