June 20, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — There’s no substitute for experience, and in the case of the Notre Dame women’s golf program, the Fighting Irish are acquiring that knowledge at the highest levels of the sport.
Sophomore Jordan Ferreira (University Place, Wash./Bellarmine Prep) showed solid progress in the second round of the U.S. Women’s Open, carding a 78 (+8) on Friday to shave three strokes off her opening round score on the challenging Pinehurst No. 2 Course (par 70, 6,649 yards) in Pinehurst, N.C.
While Ferreira’s 36-hole total of 19-over par 159 (81-78) wasn’t enough for her to make the cut (she tied for 141st place), it did reflect the improvement the second-year Notre Dame standout made in a short amount of time, no surprise for a student-athlete who earlier on Friday was named to the 2014 All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Academic Team.
Meanwhile, the past and future of Fighting Irish women’s golf are on display in Notre Dame’s own backyard this weekend at the third edition of the Symetra Tour’s Four Winds Invitational, which is being played at South Bend’s Blackthorn Golf Club (par 72, 6,419 yards). The Symetra Tour is the official developmental golf tour of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour, and while the Symetra Tour doesn’t have designated “majors” like other professional tours, the Four Winds Invitational is considered one of the premier events on the circuit, due in part to its $150,000 total purse (second-largest on tour) and $22,500 first-place share (which could put the winner into the top 10 on the 2014 Symetra Tour money list and in position to possibly earn her LPGA Tour card in 2015).
Noriko Nakazaki (’07), a four-time all-BIG EAST Conference selection for the Fighting Irish, is leading the Notre Dame contingent after Friday’s opening round, firing a two-under par 70 to tie for ninth place in the 144-player field, six shots behind tournament leader Nicole Vandermade. After reeling off 10 straight pars to begin her round, Nakazaki stumbled briefly with a double bogey on No. 11, but with Fighting Irish head coach Susan Holt cheering her on from the gallery, the Hanover Park, Ill., product rebounded with an impressive three-hole stretch on the back nine, carding an eagle on No. 14, followed by birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 to put herself in red numbers for the day.
“I cannot be more excited right now,” Nakazaki said. “I saw my name on the leaderboard and it’s been a while. Finishing strong is a great confidence builder, and doing it in South Bend is very special.
“(The eagle) was kind of a lucky thing because it doesn’t happen very often, but it was a very good shot into it, so I was very confident with that,” she added. “I really just need to focus on playing my own game. There are girls who can hit very, very far, and I’m not known for the longest drives. So I’m going to be focused on hitting great into the greens and making the putts.”
Another Fighting Irish alum that showed solid resolve on Friday was Becca Huffer (’12), who shot an even-par 72 in her first round to tie for 50th place. Huffer, like Nakazaki a four-time all-BIG EAST choice, was level through 11 holes, but a double bogey on No. 3 (her 12th hole of the day), followed by a bogey two holes later, had the Denver native in a bind. However, Huffer rallied with a remarkable charge down the stretch, closing her round with three birdies in her final four holes to get back to even for her opening round.
Incoming Notre Dame freshman Kari Bellville (Granger, Ind./Mishawaka Penn) also is entered in this week’s Four Winds Invitational, competing as an amateur on a sponsor’s exemption. Bellville, the reigning Indiana State Junior Golf champion, shot a six-over par 78 in Friday’s opening round out at Blackthorn. Bellville shook off some early nerves (including three bogeys in her first five holes) with a strong run of nine pars in a 10-hole span during the midpoint of her round, before a pair of late bogeys set her back to a tie for 140th place in the field.
Bellville, Nakazaki and Huffer will be back on the links Saturday for the second round of the Four Winds Invitational. Tee times and live scoring will be available online through the Symetra Tour’s web site, and fans in the area are encouraged to come out to Blackthorn Golf Club (6100 Nimtz Parkway in South Bend) and support these future stars of the LPGA Tour.
“I’m very excited to see the (Notre Dame women’s golf) program doing well,” Nakazaki said. “I’m just so proud to be a Notre Dame alum.”
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s golf program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s golf Twitter page (@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