May 7, 2016
By Chris Masters
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- It wasn't the result they expected, but for the members of the University of Notre Dame women's golf program, the future hardly could be much brighter.
Playing on arguably the toughest course at any of this year's four NCAA regionals, the Fighting Irish tied for 13th place (with 17th-ranked Iowa State) at the NCAA Birmingham Regional on Saturday, finishing at +80/944 (309-314-321) on the historic Jack Nicklaus-designed Shoal Creek Club (par 72/6,470 yards) in Birmingham, Alabama.
Notre Dame's 13th-place finish was its third-highest in an NCAA regional and highest when playing away from its own award-winning Warren Golf Course.
The low six teams in the 18-team field and the three low individuals not on those six squads will advance to the NCAA Championship later this month in Eugene, Oregon.
The regional result was a difficult first lesson for three Notre Dame freshmen who were making their NCAA postseason debuts this week, but the education that rookie trio gained no doubt will prove incredibly valuable in the coming years. Notre Dame was not alone in its difficulties this week, with the average individual scores during the Shoal Creek Regional close to +7/79 per round (+21/237 for the tournament), and team scores averaging nearly +28/316 per round (+84/948 for the tournament).
As this year comes to a close, the Fighting Irish have posted the second-best single-season stroke average in program history (297.16), just a half-stroke away from last year's record-setting 296.60 average and the fourth sub-300 mark in school annals (all within the past six seasons). Notre Dame also won two tournaments this year and finished in the top five on six occasions, the fourth time in head coach Susan Holt's decade-long tenure it has pulled off that feat.
"Obviously, we're very disappointed in the outcome of the regional," Holt said. "It's hard to accept such a poor showing when you know what this group is capable of.
"Finishing up the season this way is tough," she added. "This group had a great overall season and the future of our program is bright."
Freshman Emma Albrecht (Ormond Beach, Fla./Father Lopez) was the top Fighting Irish finisher this week, sharing 24th place at 14-over par 230 (76-75-79), just five strokes away from earning one of those three individual berths to the NCAA Championship.
Albrecht not only logged her eighth top-25 finish in 11 tournaments this season, but she also became the seventh Notre Dame golfer to wind up in the top 25 at an NCAA regional, as well as the third to do so away from the Warren Golf Course -- Noriko Nakazaki placed 18th as an individual participant at the 2007 NCAA Central Regional in Ann Arbor, Michigan, while Becca Huffer posted the first of her back-to-back Top 25 regional finishes in 2010, tying for 16th at the NCAA Central Regional in Columbus, Indiana.
In addition, Albrecht becomes the third Notre Dame freshman to finish in the top 25 at an NCAA regional, with the other two rookies doing so during the 2011 NCAA Central Regional at the Warren Golf Course -- Nicole Zhang (tied for eighth) and Kristina Nhim (tied for 14th).
Junior Jordan Ferreira (University Place, Wash./Bellarmine Prep) ended up as Notre Dame's No. 2 regional finisher for the second year in a row, tying for 56th place at +20/236 (79-76-81).
Freshman Maddie Rose Hamilton (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) capped her rookie season in 63rd place at +23/239 (74-81-84).
Senior captain Talia Campbell (Dallas, Texas/Ursuline Academy) closed out her college career in a tie for 64th place at +24/240 (81-82-77). A two-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, Campbell finishes with the second-best career stroke average (74.46) in the program's 28-year history, along with two of the four lowest single-season stroke average in the school's record books (73.43 in 2014-15; 73.84 this year).
Freshman Isabella DiLisio (Hatfield, Pa./Mount Saint Joseph Academy) rounded out the Notre Dame scoring in 89th place at +38/254 (80-84-90).
"I feel for Talia not having a better finish to her very accomplished career at Notre Dame," Holt said. "We will regroup, reload and rebound, and we're looking forward to next year already."
Four of the five Fighting Irish starters at this week's NCAA Birmingham Regional will return next season, along with three other veterans. In addition, Notre Dame will welcome incoming freshman Mia Ayer (Waco, Texas/Midway), who has been ranked among the top 30 in the nation in the Class of 2016 by numerous outlets.
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)
FINAL TEAM SCORES (54-hole totals): 1. Northwestern 887 (296-294-297); 2. Florida State 905 (299-297-309); 3. Oklahoma State 907 (301-297-309); 4 Alabama 908 (306-300-302); 5. Tennessee 912 (300-311-301); 6. Michigan 916 (311-305-300); 7. California 924 (307-307-310); 8. Clemson 929 (308-310-311); 9. New Mexico State 931 (303-318-310); 10. Vanderbilt 935 (302-316-317); 11. Purdue 936 (313-319-304); 12. Missouri 939 (311-318-310); 13. (tie) NOTRE DAME 944 (309-314-321) and Iowa State 944 (310-324-310); 15. Middle Tennessee 945 (310-317-318); 16. Eastern Kentucky 971 (332-316-323); 17. Oakland 991 (328-324-339); 18. Alabama State 1006 (333-337-336).
TOP EIGHT INDIVIDUALS PLUS NOTRE DAME GOLFERS (of 96): 1. (tie) Matilda Castren (FSU) 220 (74-71-75), Marianne Li (CAL) 220 (74-72-74) and Janet Mao (NU) 220 (74-74-72); 4. Kacie Komoto (NU) 222 (72-73-77); 5. (tie) Catherine Peters (UM) 223 (77-74-72) and Lauren Stephenson (CU) 223 (74-75-74); 7. (tie) Emma Talley (UA) 224 (75-76-73) and Kim Metraux (FSU) 224 (73-77-74); 24. (tie) Emma Albrecht (ND) 230 (76-75-79); 56. (tie) Jordan Ferreira (ND) 236 (79-76-81); 63. Maddie Rose Hamilton (ND) 239 (74-81-84); 64. (tie) Talia Campbell (ND) 240 (81-82-77); 89. Isabella DiLisio (ND) 254 (80-84-90).
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).