May 5, 2016
By Chris Masters
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- During the 15-minute drive from its hotel to the Shoal Creek Club for Thursday's opening round of the NCAA Birmingham Regional, the University of Notre Dame women's golf team navigated a winding two-lane road through hilly terrain before arriving at its destination.
As it turned out, that trip proved to be the perfect metaphor for the Fighting Irish following their first-round performance.
Notre Dame got off to an impressive start, stumbled a bit coming home, and then found itself rising back up the team standings as others around them had their own struggles, with the 10th-seeded Fighting Irish currently standing exactly where they are seeded in 10th place in the 18-team field after carding a 21-over par 309 on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Birmingham Regional at the Shoal Creek Club (par 72/6,470 yards) in Birmingham, Alabama.
Following this week's 54-hole regional, the low six teams will move on to the NCAA Championship, along with the three low individuals not on advancing teams. Notre Dame presently is six strokes off the top-six team cut line, with New Mexico State (303) in that bubble position after Thursday's opening round, while Northwestern holds the team lead after shooting 296.
Freshman Maddie Rose Hamilton (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) was the top Fighting Irish individual on day one, firing a two-over par 74 that puts her in a tie for seventh place in the 96-player field. Hamilton is four shots off the lead currently held by Vanderbilt's Jennifer Hahn.
Beginning on the back side of the challenging Shoal Creek layout, Hamilton was the catalyst for a strong Notre Dame start, posting birdies on her first two holes as the Fighting Irish moved to three-under par in the early going. Notre Dame leveled off a bit for the remainder of its first nine, but even through 12 holes, the Fighting Irish were looking quite sharp at six-over par as a team.
By the time Notre Dame reached Shoal Creek's No. 4 (the squad's 13th hole of the day), the swirling winds had begun to kick up and the Fighting Irish had to scramble to keep their focus. Hamilton did all she could, lining up two more birdies in her final four holes, sinking a 30-foot putt on No. 7 (her 16th hole) and then canning a clutch 12-foot par putt on the next hole to cap off a strong NCAA postseason debut for the Notre Dame rookie.
"We had ourselves in great position after 12 holes and lost a lot of shots coming in," Fighting Irish head coach Susan Holt said. "The wind really picked up on the back nine and we just really struggled with it and our short games failed us. We are still within range of the top six with two rounds left. Tomorrow is an opportunity to make a nice jump in the standings and back it up on day three."
Freshman Emma Albrecht (Ormond Beach, Fla./Father Lopez) is tied for 24th place after shooting a four-over par 76 on Thursday. With the exception of three consecutive bogeys early in her round, Albrecht played consistent even-par golf virtually the remainder of the day until a bogey on her final hole set her back somewhat.
"Maddie played a great round and took advantage of a lot of birdie looks she had," Holt noted. "Emma got off to a shaky start, but really battled and came in with a solid score."
Junior Jordan Ferreira (University Place, Wash./Bellarmine Prep) is in a 55th-place tie at seven-over par 79. Ferreira had two rough patches during her round, including a run of four bogeys in five holes midway through the day, and then two more on her final two holes, leaving her with some work to be done.
Freshman Isabella DiLisio (Hatfield, Pa./Mount Saint Joseph Academy) had perhaps the toughest round of the day for Notre Dame, finishing up in a tie for 68th place at eight-over par 80. DiLisio actually had been the leading Fighting Irish player through those first 12 holes at one-under par before a double bogey on her 13th hole (Shoal Creek's No. 4) began a murderous stretch of five holes that the Notre Dame rookie played in nine-over par, a run that includes two double bogeys and a triple bogey.
One of the most surprising twists on Thursday was senior captain and two-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection Talia Campbell (Dallas, Texas/Ursuline Academy) opening with at nine-over par 81 and tying for 74th place. Campbell made the turn at two-over par, but came undone on the back nine which she played in seven-over par on the way to her highest single-round score in two years, dating back to a final-round 85 at the 2014 NCAA West Regional at the Tumble Creek Club in Cle Elum, Washington.
Notre Dame returns to the links at 7:30 a.m. CT (8:30 a.m. ET) for second-round action in the NCAA Birmingham Regional, once again beginning on the No. 10 tee at Shoal Creek. Live scoring will be available through the Golfstat web site (Golfstat.com).
For more information on the Notre Dame women's golf program, visit the women's golf page on the official Fighting Irish athletics web site (UND.com/ndwomensgolf), sign up to follow the Notre Dame women's golf Twitter feed (@NDwomensGolf) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the "Fan Center" pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
NCAA Birmingham Regional
May 5-7, 2016
Shoal Creek Club (par 72/6,470 yards)
TEAM SCORES (18-hole totals): 1. Northwestern 296; 2. Florida State 299; 3. Tennessee 300; 4. Oklahoma State 301; 5. Vanderbilt 302; 6. New Mexico State 303; 7. Alabama 306; 8. California 307; 9. Clemson 308; 10. NOTRE DAME 309; 11. (tie) Middle Tennessee 310 and Iowa State 310; 13. (tie) Michigan 311 and Missouri 311; 15. Purdue 313; 16. Oakland 328; 17. Eastern Kentucky 332; 18. Alabama State 333.
TOP SIX INDIVIDUALS PLUS NOTRE DAME GOLFERS (of 96): 1. Jennifer Hahn (VU) 70; 2. (tie) Kacie Komoto (NU) 72 and Maddie McCrary (OSU) 72; 4. (tie) Viviana Macias (NMSU) 73, Kim Metraux (FSU) 73 and Hannah Pietila (UT) 73; 7. (tie) Maddie Rose Hamilton (ND) 74; 25. (tie) Emma Albrecht (ND) 76; 55. (tie) Jordan Ferreira (ND) 79; 68. (tie) Isabella DiLisio (ND) 80; 74. (tie) Talia Campbell (ND) 81.
Chris Masters, associate athletics communications director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2001 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame women's golf and women's basketball programs. A native of San Francisco, California, Masters is a 1996 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, earned his master's degree from Kansas State University in 1998, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).