Nov. 12, 2003
by Adam Porcelli
When one thinks about Notre Dame athletics, images of the football team’s rich history usually are the first to come to mind. The tradition of excellence in athletics at the University is directly linked to the achievements of the116-years old football program, the school’s first varsity sport. However, there is a group on campus right now looking to add to the Notre Dame tradition in only its 16th season of competition-the women’s golf program.
The women’s golf team is in the midst of its most successful season in the history of the program. The Irish are 32nd in the Golfstat statistical rankings and are 49th in the latest Golfweek poll. Records have fallen, career-bests set and eyes are on a potential berth in the NCAA golf championships.
The 2003-04 Irish have accomplished numerous milestones in their first five tournaments this fall. The team has shattered the program’s previous top 54-hole total of 932 (2002 adidas Fall Invitational) three times. The new school record was set at the season-opening Cougar Classic as the team fired a 25-over 889. The team also established a single-round record of 285 at the tournament, bettering the previous school best of 295 (1998 Midwest Classic).
Notre Dame has won two tournaments (Cougar Classic, Notre Dame Invitational) after never earning more than one first-place finish in a single fall before and winning multiple tournaments in a season only once before (2000-01). The individual chapter of the Irish record book has also been rewritten. A new top five for 54-hole lows has been created. First on the list is now a 69, shot by freshman Noriko Nakazaki, which is the first-ever sub-70 round in Notre Dame history.
The Irish’s unprecedented success this season has exceeded team goals and surpassed even third-year head coach Debby King’s expectations.
“It’s pretty amazing. I originally was expecting to break the top 50 by season’s end and we have already exceeded that,” said King.
“Our first goal was to shoot 309 every round and we keep out shooting that total. We have been rethinking our goals as the season has gone on and we’ll sit down and do some revamping of them in December.”
The coaches and players agree that teamwork, desire and hard work are at the core of the early success this season.
“Everyone is committed to being better and everyone on this team definitely believes we belong with all the top teams,” said senior co-captain Shannon Byrne.
“The success has really been a team effort. Both coaches and the team have put a lot of effort and hard work into improving this team and take it to the next level. I think it has paid off so far with some of the record scores we have shot”
Byrne’s teammate, sophomore standout Katie Brophy, points to a greater sense of teamwork to help explain what has led to the outstanding start to the ’03-’04 season.
“I think the way the team interacts with each other is a lot better this year,” said Brophy.
“Each player wants to be at her best, but the team also cheer s on everyone else to play her best, too. This year, it just feels like there is a more positive attitude overall and that everyone wants it more. The way the coaches have been and the teamwork have helped us do some great things.”
King agrees with her players, sentiments regarding the difference in this season’s squad. She also expounded on where the praise for the early success should be allocated.
“I feel the chemistry between all classes is great and that has helped the team improve as a group,” said King.
“I give all the credit to the players. I present the practice and tournament schedules and it is really up to them to take it from there. You have to want it; it comes down to heart. This team has the heart to practice and play hard”
With their stellar play, the Irish are putting themselves into competition for a spot in the NCAA Regionals in May, which would be Notre Dame’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA women’s golf championships. King believes the potential is there for securing a berth.
“If we get a 300 scoring average, and keep playing this way in the spring, we have a chance to be in position to make the NCAA Regionals,” said King.
Even with the NCAAs as a possibility, the team is remaining focused on the immediate future and not getting caught up on what could happen at the end of the spring.
“We really try not to think about things like that too much,” said Brophy.
“We would obviously love to make it to the NCAAs, but we just are taking things one tournament at a time.”