April 28, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The next stop for the No. 25 Notre Dame women’s golf team will be at the NCAA Central Regional as the NCAA pairings were announced on Monday. The University of Texas will serve as host for the regional, which will be played at the University’s golf course May 8-10. This is the third NCAA appearance in the history of the Fighting Irish program.
Notre Dame punched its ticket to the Central Regional by winning the BIG EAST Conference title last week in Batavia, Ohio. That marked the program-record fifth victory of the season for the Fighting Irish, who have finished in the top-five in nine of 10 tournaments this season. Notre Dame will be the No. 9 seed out of the 21-team field at the regional.
“We’re excited to be going because that was one of our goals heading into the season,” says second-year Notre Dame head coach Susan Holt. “We have beaten several of the teams that are in the field so we feel confident going in.”
The NCAA Tournament field is comprised of 63 teams, plus nine individuals on non-qualifying teams, that are divided among three regional sites (Athens, Ga., Austin, Texas & Lincoln, Calif.). The top eight teams, and top-two non-advancing golfers, from each of the three regions will advance to the NCAA Finals, which will take place May 20-23 at the University of New Mexico Golf Course in Albuquerque, N.M.
The Notre Dame squad will be familiar with the University of Texas Golf Club as the Irish tied for fifth at the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational, which was played at the course earlier this spring (March 17-19).
“We are only one of three teams in the (Central Regional) field that played at that tournament in March so I think that gives us an advantage,” states Holt. “Plus, we played that tournament in bad weather conditions so we’ve seen the course at its worst. We also played there last season so we have seen it in different conditions and I think that will really help us.”
Freshman So-Hyun Park (Seoul, South Korea/Bradenton Prep) will lead the Irish into the NCAAs with a team-best 73.28 season stroke average, which is on pace to break the Notre Dame record of 74.71 established by Noriko Nakazaki last season. Park, who is currently ranked as nation’s 14th best player according to Golfstat, placed second at the BIG EAST Championship.
Annie Brophy (Spokane, Wash./Gonzaga Prep) will enter competition fresh off of her medalist finish at the conference championship. The sophomore has a 76.72 scoring average on the season.
Two other Notre Dame golfers earned all-BIG EAST honors. Junior co-captain Lisa Maunu (St. Thomas, Ontario/Parkside Collegiate Institute) and sophomore Kristin Wetzel (Middletown, N.Y./Hilton Head Prep) tied for fourth at the league tournament. Maunu ranks second on the team with a 75.38 stroke average, while Wetzel possesses a 77.00 mark.
Katie Conway (Wading River, N.Y./Shoreham-Wading River) completes the Fighting Irish lineup that has competed together in every event this season. The freshman boasts a 76.48 scoring average, which ranks third on the team.
Notre Dame made its two other NCAA Tournament appearances in back-to-back seasons, 2004 and 2005. The Irish received an at-large berth to the Central Regional both of those years. The Irish finished 17th and 18th, respectively, in their first two trips. Last season, Nakazaki became the first student-athlete in program history to qualify for NCAA play as an individual entrant. She placed in a tie for 18th at the Central Regional.
No current member of the Notre Dame squad has NCAA Tournament experience. However, Holt has guided a team and/or individuals to 11 NCAA Regional appearances and trips to the NCAA Finals in 2001 and 2002 while at the University of South Florida.
For more information on the 2008 NCAA Women’s Golf Championship, log onto ncaasports.com. Go to und.com to stay up-to-date on the Notre Dame women’s golf team.