May 3, 2005
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Just as they did one year ago, the Notre Dame women’s golf team had to sweat out another bid to the NCAA tournament. The Fighting Irish, who made their first-ever appearance in the NCAAs in 2004, received an at-large bid to the 2005 national tournament on Monday, April 25. 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 snuck into the tournament as the 20th seed, and the last at-large bid given, out of the 21-team Central Regional field. The NCAA field is comprised of 63 teams and nine individuals divided into three regions. The Irish have had success in Lubbock as they won the Jeannine McHaney Invitational/Central Regional Preview at the Rawls Course back in September.
CENTRAL REGIONAL: The NCAA Central Regional will be a three-day event with one round of play taking place each day. Action gets underway on Thursday, May 5 with first round tee times beginning at 7:30 a.m. (CDT) at Texas Tech’s par 72, 6,375-yard Jerry S. Rawls Golf Course. The Notre Dame golfers will have their tee times between 12:40 p.m. and 1:20 p.m. on Thursday. Rounds two and three will also begin with 7:30 a.m. tee times on Friday and Saturday, with pairings determined by the previous round of play. Live scoring will be available through golfstat.com and daily results will be posted on texastech.com. For additional information log on to und.com and ncaasports.com or call the Notre Dame athletics hotline at 574-631-3000. Notre Dame placed 17th at the regional one year ago after entering the field seeded 19th.
CENTRAL FIELD: A field of 21-teams and three individuals will take to the course for a chance to qualify for the NCAA Championship in Sunriver, Oregon. Notre Dame has faced 13 of the teams, while compiling a record of 10-27 versus those squads during the 2004-05 season. The most commonly faced opponent is Michigan, who has a 4-2 record versus the Irish. Eleven of the 13 teams have squared off against Notre Dame on multiple occasions this season.
Eight of the teams in the field also competed in the Central Regional Preview back in September at the Rawls Course. Those teams are: Arkansas, Baylor, Missouri, Notre Dame, SMU, TCU, Texas Tech and Tulsa. The Irish defeated those seven other squads plus others en route to the title.
Nine of the teams place among the top-25 in the latest golfstat.com rankings. Among those in the top-10 are: Arizona State at No. 4, Auburn at No. 6, while New Mexico and LSU round out the top-10 at ninth and 10th, respectively.
The top-eight teams from each of the three national regions will automatically qualify for the NCAA Championship at the Sunriver Resort May 17-20.
NOTRE DAME LINEUP: Four of the five golfers Notre Dame will send to Lubbock played for the Irish at the Central Regional one year ago. Senior Karen Lotta, junior Katie Brophy, sophomores Stacy Brown and Noriko Nakazaki all have NCAA experience on their resumes, which should help the squad as they look to better their 2004 finish. Freshman Jane Lee may be lacking in post-season experience but she has only missed one event during her rookie campaign and will be counted on again this weekend as she completes the Irish lineup.
Brophy holds the school record for medalist finishes with three, including the Central Regional Preview title back in September. The junior co-captain carded a three-under par 141 over the two rounds of play to defeat the field. That was one of her seven team-leading tournament efforts on the season. She is third all-time in school history with 13 team-leading performances. The junior also leads the team with five rounds at or under par this season. Brophy will look for a better NCAA showing this year, as she struggled at last year’s regional, firing a three-round total of 251 (+38) to tie for 100th overall.
Nakazaki and Brophy have been the mainstays in the Irish lineup this year as they have appeared in every event. Nakazaki is second on the team with a 76.53 scoring average for the season and is leading the team with a spring average of 77.00 followed by Brophy’s 77.53. Nakazaki has produced consistent results this year by having 29 of her 32 rounds count towards the team score, which is tops on the team. Her first collegiate win came at the Indiana Invitational on April 2-3 after registering rounds of 71 and 75. She shot the second-best total on the team at the Central Regional Preview with a five-over par 149 to tie for 10th. As a freshman in 2004, she led the team at the regional with a 20-over par 233 to place in a tie for 36th.
Lotta is coming off a co-medalist finish at the BIG EAST Championship, which was her first collegiate victory. The senior has played in eight events this campaign, including five of the six spring events. She owns the third-best spring average on the team with a 78.75 clip to go along with a season mark of 77.67, which is good for fourth on the squad. Her top score of the year occurred at the Warren Golf Course during the Notre Dame Invitational (Sept. 4-5) as she placed in a tie for second with a five-over par 221, including a school-record round of 68 during the final 18 holes of play. Lotta carded a 245 (+32) to place 90th at the Central Regional one year ago.
Brown will be returning to the lineup after not competing at the BIG EAST Championship. That was one of only two events in which she has not played in this year. The sophomore captured her first career victory earlier this spring at the St. Croix Collegiate Classic. Her three-round total of 228 (+12) bested the field and led the Irish to the team crown. Brown tied for 14th at the regional preview after tallying a six-over 150. She possesses a season scoring average of 78.21 in 28 rounds of play. She was second on the team last year at the regional with a 26-over par 239.
Lee turned in rounds of 76 and 77 at the Rawls Course back in September during the Central Regional Preview. That totaled placed her in a tie for 26th overall. The freshman has a season scoring average of 78.93 in 30 rounds of play. Her top round of the season occurred at the Irish’s win at the St. Croix Collegiate Classic when she posted a two-under par 70 on the board in the second round.
The Fighting Irish own an overall season stroke average of 306.47 and a spring average of 310.93.
LAST TIME OUT: The Fighting Irish had a disappointing showing at the BIG EAST Championship over the weekend of April 23 and 24 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. St. John’s won the title with a 329. A bright spot for the Irish was senior Karen Lotta as she captured co-medalist honors along with Georgetown’s Connie Isler as they each shot a five-over par 77. Sophomore Noriko Nakazaki joined Lotta as an all-BIG EAST member with a 13-over par 85, which placed her in a three-way tie for sixth.
Irish teammates Suzie Hayes and Jane Lee were among a three-way tie for 12th with 16-over par 88s. Junior co-captain Katie Brophy was denied her third straight all-BIG EAST honor as she fired an 18-over par 90 to close out the Irish field in 16th place.
IRISH THOUGHTS: Irish head coach Debby King and sophomore Noriko Nakazaki discuss the Central Regional.
Debby King – Head Coach
On playing in the Central Regional …
“On one hand we are excited to be playing at a course where we had success back in the fall but on the other hand we will be facing a much tougher field than we did then. We have not played any of the top-five teams in the field yet this year so I’m not sure how we’ll fair against them. However, after those teams it’s anyone’s game. The field is tight from teams ranked 27th to 50th. It’s going to be a fight for the sixth, seventh and eighth spots to see who will qualify for finals.”
Goals for the regional …
“Obviously we want to shoot in the top-eight and make it to finals. We have also not broken 300 since last fall so we’d like to break it in at least one of the three rounds.”
On going to the Central Regional for the second straight year …
“It’s what we committed to do, both the administration and myself as coach. It’s neat to see it come true and our goal is starting to happen.”
“We have an advantage this year with having played there last year but we try to just look at it as just another tournament.”
Noriko Nakazaki – Sophomore
On the NCAA Central Regional …
“It’s awesome that we can go back to a course where we had success back in the fall. 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.”
RETURNING TO RAWLS: When the Fighting Irish step on to the Jerry S. Rawls Golf Course for the Central Regional, they will be returning to familiar grounds, which should bring back pleasant memories. Notre Dame captured arguably its biggest victory in the history of the program on September 24-26 when the Irish won the Jeannine McHaney Invitational/Central Regional Preview by four strokes over Oklahoma and the rest of the 18-team field at the Rawls Course. The Irish defeated some of the top teams in the central region with rounds of 296 and 297 (593/+17) on the course that will play host to the NCAA Central Regional. Not only did the Irish take home the team crown during the rain-shortened 36-hole event, junior co-captain Katie Brophy won the individual title with a three-under par 141 (69-72).
SWEEPING TITLES: Three times this season Notre Dame has swept the team and individual titles at an event. At the Jeannine McHaney Invitational/Central Regional Preview, the Irish defeated the 18-team field with a 36-hole total of 593 (+17) and Katie Brophy was victorious with a 141 (-3) back on September 24-26. In the second event of the spring, Stacy Brown led the Irish charge at the St. Croix Collegiate Classic (Mar. 11-13) with a 12-over par 228 as the team posted an overall score of 919 (+55) to defeat the eight-team field. The following tournament featured another double-win with Noriko Nakazaki claiming first place at the Indiana Invitational (Apr. 2-3) after firing a two-over par 146 as part of Notre Dame’s 620 (+44) victorious total versus 18 other squads during the two-round tournament.
A SEASON OF FIRSTS: Katie Brophy’s victory at the McHaney Invitational was the third of her Notre Dame career, which ranks her first all-time in school history. However, the wins by Stacy Brown and Noriko Nakazaki at the St. Croix Collegiate Classic and Indiana Invitational, respectively, were the first of their Irish tenures and they joined seven other Notre Dame golfers with at least one medalist finish in their career. That list includes Karen Lotta as she joined the ranks of the first-timers with her co-medalist finish at the BIG EAST Championship.
LOTTA SETS LOW MARK: Senior Karen Lotta fired a school-record round of 68 in the third round of the Notre Dame Invitational at the Warren Golf Course on September 5th. The four-under par total eclipsed the previous mark of 69 established three times by junior Katie Brophy and once by sophomore Noriko Nakazaki. Lotta’s previous low was an even-par 72.
BIG EAST SUCCESS: The Notre Dame women’s golf team has had tremendous success in the BIG EAST Conference over the past few years. The Fighting Irish captured the first-ever women’s golf BIG EAST Championship title in 2003 by defeating runner-up Miami by 44 strokes. Notre Dame’s Katie Brophy, a freshman at the time, and Miami’s Tina Miller captured co-medalist honors with thirteen-over par totals of 229. Notre Dame’s Shannon Byrne, Suzie Hayes and Karen Lotta joined Brophy as all-BIG EAST members for the Irish. In 2004, the Irish claimed a 14-stroke victory over the Hurricanes as freshman Noriko Nakazaki led the way with a third-place finish. Brophy and Lotta garnered all-conference honors for the second straight season.
In this year’s championship, Lotta put her name alongside Brophy’s as an Irish co-medalist and she became the first Notre Dame golfer to earn all-BIG EAST honors three times. Nakazaki’s success continued as she earned all-BIG EAST accolades for the second straight season.
As a team, the Irish hope this year’s disappointing third-place finish will only be a hiccup in their pursuit of more conference titles. That chase may become a little more difficult beginning next year as Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and South Florida join the ranks of the BIG EAST Conference.
NEXT UP FOR THE FIGHTING IRISH: Notre Dame hopes to finish among the top-eight at the Central Regional and advance to the NCAA Championship May 17-20 at the Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Oregon. The top-eight teams from each of the three national regions combine to make up the 24-team field that will play for the 2005 national championship.