Sept. 5, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – As the 21st season of women’s golf gets underway at Notre Dame, the Irish are poised to take the program to new heights in 2008-09. With their top five scorers returning from a season ago and two promising freshmen added to the roster, building on the success of last season should not be a problem for the Irish. The team is optimistic for the season ahead, as it looks to advance to the NCAA Finals for the first time in program history.
The 2007-2008 squad was the most successful in varsity women’s golf history. It achieved so by fielding a young scoring lineup that consisted of two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior. The lineup lead Notre Dame to its highest ranking of all-time, as they peaked at No. 12 according to Golfstat. The squad also won the BIG EAST Championship, leading the seven-team field wire-to-wire for Notre Dame’s third BIG EAST title, and first since 2004. The squad then advanced to the NCAA Regionals as a ninth seed, but it was unable to advance to the NCAA Finals, finishing 16th out of 21 teams.
The accomplishments of last season have enabled the Irish to play an extremely challenging schedule in 2008-09. At the College of Charleston Cougar Classic, at which the Irish open their season on September 14, seven of the 24 teams that advanced to the 2008 NCAA Championship Finals will comprise a portion of the field. For the 2008-09 season, Notre Dame will face fields including 19 of the final 24 teams in last season’s NCAA Championship.
“I feel as if we have been able to elevate our schedule this year and add some really competitive events because of the hard work and success we achieved last season,” said head coach Susan Holt. “Certainly the schedule is more challenging but we are also a better team, I feel the schedule is a good fit for where we are and who we have on our squad right now,” Holt added.
The Irish 2008-09 Fighting Irish are a more experienced group, ready to take on the challenges of the tough schedule. Sophomore All-America honoree So-Hyun Park (Seoul, South Korea/Bradenton Prep) is back to lead the Irish after an impressive freshman campaign that saw her capture both the Rio Verde Invitational (212/-4) and the Napa River Grill Cardinal Cup (213/-3) tournaments. Park finished in the top-seven in nine of Notre Dame’s eleven events and posted a school record 73.63 stroke average.
Junior Annie Brophy (Spokane, Wash./Gonzaga Prep) and senior captain Lisa Maunu (St. Thomas, Ontario/Parkside Collegiate Institute) also won tournaments for the Irish last season. Brophy took home individual BIG EAST Championship honors, shooting a six-over 222 for the tournament. In the process, Brophy became the first sophomore to win an outright BIG EAST Championship. It also marked her first collegiate medalist finish. Maunu took home individual first-place honors at the Cougar Classic (210/-6) and was second to Park in stroke average with a 75.34 mark for the season. She fired a program best 66 (-6) in the first round of the Cougar Classic.
New York natives Katie Conway (Wading River, N.Y./Shoreham-Wading River), Kristin Wetzel (Middletown, N.Y./Hilton Head Prep) and Julie Kim (Bayside N.Y/Bayside) round out the Irish returnees. Conway, a sophomore, had two top-ten finishes in her first season with the Irish, including a ninth place showing that helped the Irish win the Wolverine Invitational. Wetzel, a junior, played in all eleven events for the Irish. She finished tied for fourth at the BIG EAST Championship, earning her a place on the all-conference team. Also a junior, Kim battled with injuries to play in one event for the Irish last season. Her best collegiate round came as a freshman in the first round of the BIG EAST Championship when she carded a 72(E).
Freshmen Katie Allare (Phoenix, Ariz./Xavier Prep) and Becca Huffer (Denver, Colo./Littleton) have been welcomed to the lineup and should increase the competition level, making the squad even stronger. Allare was a four-year letterwinner and helped Xavier to four consecutive Division 5A Championships in that span. Huffer captured the 2008 Colorado State Championship by a state record 13-strokes (-5/139).
“We sit at a really good place. Kyle [Veltri/Irish assistant coach] and I have the job of recruiting top student-athletes and bringing them to Notre Dame, and the depth of our team shows we have done this. We feel like any combination of our eight players making up a five-person team will be competitive. The competition is good, healthy and keeps them working hard, knowing that their place is not secure.”
The Irish have the talent and depth to make it through one of the toughest schedules in program history. With focus and determination, the Irish have what it will take to meet their lofty goals.
Holt emphasizes this point when she notes that the Irish need to, “Stick to our process and what it takes to play well on a daily basis and keeping the game simplified. It’s three rounds of golf at every tournament and every day is different, we just need to take it one hole at a time, one shot at a time.”
With that approach, the Notre Dame will be prepared in 2009, as it looks to advance to the NCAA Championships for the first time in program history.