When Notre Dame head coach Debby King took over the Irish women's golf team in August of 2001, she was
given the task of taking Notre Dame women's golf to
the next level, making it into a top-25 program
and one of the elite programs in the nation. In
two-and-a-half seasons, on the strength of
higher-caliber recruits and a quality schedule, King
has Notre Dame in position
to earn its first berth in the NCAA Women's Golf
Championships and on the path to becoming a contender
for a national championship.
Notre Dame enters this season after winning the
first-ever BIG EAST Women's Golf Championship which
was hosted by the Irish at the Warren Golf Course in
the spring of 2003. The progress of Notre Dame women's
golf is even more evident in the unprecedented success
experienced this fall. School records fell and career
bests were set as the Irish accomplished numerous
milestones in the fall of 2003.
"The team was ranked 107th when I first started, and
it's great to see where we are in the country now
after a little less than two-and-a-half years," said
"It was great to win the first BIG EAST tournament on
our home course. This fall has been pretty amazing. I
originally was expecting to break the top 50 by
season's end and we have already achieved that mark.
Our first goal was to shoot 309 every round and we
keep outshooting that total. As the fall went on, we
had to keep rethinking our goals for the season."
The team actually finished the fall schedule shooting
lower than 309 in nine consecutive rounds (three
tournaments) and in 13 of 18 fall rounds played en
route to a school-record stroke average of 303.89,
more than 12 strokes better than the 316.29 turned in
by last season's squad. The 2003-04 Irish have already
recorded the top three (285, 291, 294) and eight of
the top 10 rounds in the 16-year history of the
program. Notre Dame also shattered the program's
previous top 54-hole total of 932 in four of the
team.s six tournaments, firing scores of 889, 892, 902
Notre Dame also won three fall tournaments (Cougar
Classic, Notre Dame Invitational, Edwin Watts/Palmetto
Intercollegiate) after winning three tournaments in a
single season only once before (2000-01).
Members of the '03-'04 Irish squad carded some
impressive individual scores in the fall as well,
which led to 11 top-10 finishes. After only five
sub-72 rounds in Notre Dame history prior to this
season, there were four such rounds turned in during
the fall of 2003, including a new school record for
lowest individual round (69). In addition, the top
eight 54-hole totals of all-time were shot this fall.
Coach King has enjoyed her team's success this fall
and believes strong team chemistry and a new
confidence has prepared the squad to carry their
impressive ways into the spring portion of the 2003-04
"I feel the chemistry between all classes is great and
that has helped the team improve as a group," says
"Our freshmen have been impact players, and the
upperclassmen have really stepped it up to where they
are playing to their potential. Psychologists will say
confidence comes first before you do well. I believe
that confidence comes from doing well. I think once
the team started shooting some of these great scores,
they started to think that they really are good. It
has snowballed from there and now they go out
expecting to shoot low scores."
If Notre Dame can continue its stellar play, the Irish
will be in competition for a spot in the NCAA
Regionals in May. King believes the potential is there
not only for securing a berth in the 2004 Women's Golf
Championships, but also to be another step closer to
the ultimate goal of winning a national championship.
"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," says King.
"We are in a process right now. I see this team
continuing to improve to where we will make it to the
final championships of the NCAAs someday. I believe we
can win a national championship here at Notre Dame."
One of this season's leaders is Noriko Nakazaki
(Hanover Park, Ill.), one of two highly-talented
freshmen from King.s second recruiting class. The
Irish newcomer led Notre Dame throughout the fall,
turning in top-10 performances in her first four
collegiate tournaments and finishing as the top Irish
golfer in four of the team's first five fall events.
Nakazaki set two school records en route to a
second-place finish in her first collegiate
tournament, firing a 69 in the first round at the
Cougar Classic for the lowest round in the program.s
history and shooting a school-low, one-over par 217
(69-72-76) for 54 holes.
A calm, yet strong player, Nakazaki ended the fall
campaign as the team's leader in stroke average with a
school-record 74.89. Nakazaki was a consistent
presence on the course, playing in all six of Notre
Dame.s fall tournaments and turning in scores of 76 or
lower in 15 of 18 rounds. She also had 17 of 18 rounds
(94.4%) count toward team scoring.
Right behind Nakazaki in scoring is sophomore Katie
Brophy (Spokane, Wash.). Brophy continues to make
significant contributions to the program after being
named team MVP last season and earning co-medalist
honors at the inaugural BIG EAST Championship in 2003. The school's leader in
career stroke average (77.50), Brophy played in all
six tournaments in the fall of .03 and had a 75.72
stroke average. She also had 17 of 18 rounds
played (94.4%) count toward team scoring.
Brophy's best performance of the fall came at the
Shootout at the Legends of Indiana where she fired a
career-low 54-hole total of five-over par 221
(75-72-74), which is the third-best 54-hole mark in
program history. Her second-round 72 was the first
18-hole score of even par or better in her Notre Dame
career. Brophy concluded the fall with a career-low 71
in the third round of the Edwin Watts/Palmetto
Intercollegiate where she tied for sixth with a 224
Sophomore Sarah Bassett (Spokane, Wash.) continued to
make her presence felt in the fall of '03 after an
impressive freshman campaign in 2002-03. Currently
second in Notre Dame history with a 78.68 career
stroke average in 37 rounds, Bassett had the best
semester of her career this fall as she closed out the
slate third on the team in stroke average with a 76.78
in nine rounds of play (seven counting to the team's
score). Her prior top average for a semester was 77.86
last fall, which helped her finish second on the team
in stroke average for the entire '02-'03 season with a
Bassett led the Irish to a win at the Notre Dame
Invitational in her first appearance of the season.
The determined golfer secured the first top-five
finish of her career by taking third place out of a
field of 93 with rounds of 75, 78 and 77 for a 54-hole
score of 230. Bassett followed that strong outing with
a career-low 54-hole total of 226 (77-73-76) at the
Shootout at the Legends.
The second member of the freshmen class, Stacy Brown
(The Woodlands, Texas), also has made an early impact
on the Irish program. Brown played as a member of the
scoring lineup in four fall tournaments while also
participating in the adidas Fall Invitational as an
individual entrant. The newcomer finished the fall
schedule fourth with a 77.80 average in 15 rounds
An athletic competitor who works hard at improving her
game, Brown was a difference maker for Notre Dame
throughout the fall. She began the season by shooting
an even-par 72 in her first collegiate round at the
Cougar Classic where she helped the Irish earn a team
title with her 54-hole score of 229. After her
outstanding first-round total, she struggled with an
83 in the second round, but showed a sense of
resiliency and finished the team's first fall tourney
with a 74.
Brown concluded her first semester at Notre Dame with
the top 54-hole performance of her young career. She
earned her first top-10 finish for the Irish at the
Edwin Watts/Palmetto Intercollegiate, tying for sixth
place after carding a pair of 73.s and a final-round
78 for an eight-over par 224.
Senior co-captain Shannon Byrne (Arlington Heights,
Ill.) has been a regular in the Irish lineup since her
freshman year. One of the most consistent golfers the
program has ever had, Byrne played in the first 34
tournaments of her career and has played in 36 of 37
tournaments overall with an 80.38 career average,
which is good for fourth on the all-time list.
In the fall, Byrne had a stroke average of 78.20 and
turned in the lowest 54-hole total of her outstanding
Notre Dame career. She set two career bests at the
season-opening Cougar Classic where she was one of
three Irish golfers to finish in the top 10, guiding
the team to the tournament victory. Byrne tied for
seventh place after shooting a career-low round of 70
in the first round, which she followed with scores of
79 and 74 for a career-best, seven-over par total of
Another top returning player is perennial contributor
Karen Lotta (Los Angeles, Calif.). The junior owns the
third-lowest career stroke average in school history
with a 79.95 in 64 rounds of play and has turned in
seven top-10 finishes in two-and-a-half seasons.
Lotta played in four fall events, three as a member of
the scoring five. The sixth golfer to record a sub-80
average for the fall, Lotta had a stroke average of
78.92 in her 12 rounds of play. Lotta's best outing of
the fall came at the Edwin Watts/Palmetto
Intercollegiate where she set a career-low 54-hole
total with a 225 (78-75-72).
Next for the Irish are two sophomores, Suzie Hayes
(Dublin, Ireland) and Lauren Gebauer (Columbus, Ohio).
After earning all-BIG EAST honors in 2002-03, Hayes
played in four fall tournaments and had an average of
Hayes gave her best to the team in her final two
appearances of the fall, the Shootout at the Legends
and the adidas Fall Invitational. In Franklin, Ind.,
Hayes shot 239 (83-75-81) on the strength of her
second-round 75, which was a career low for the
Ireland native. In the third round at the Palm Harbor,
Fla., tournament, Hayes matched her career-best round
and fired a career-low 54-hole total of 18-over par
Gebauer had a stroke average of 80.67 for play in
three tournaments during the fall of '03, the Notre
Dame Invitational (individual entrant), Shootout at
the Legends and adidas Fall Invitational.
Gebauer's top performance of the season came at the
adidas Fall Invitational where she tied for 31st with
a career-best 232 for 54 holes. In between two 18-hole
marks of 80, Gebauer had a career-low, even-par 72 in
the second round at the Notre Dame-hosted event.
Senior Rebecca Rogers (Alpharetta, Ga.) and junior
Casey Rotella (Keswick, Va.) round out the Notre Dame
squad for 2003-04. Both golfers participated as
individuals in the Notre Dame Invitational this fall.
Rogers, a three-time monogram winner, will serve as a
co-captain of the team as she has demonstrated
leadership qualities on and off the field throughout
The 2000 Notre Dame Invitational individual medalist,
Rogers shot 252 (87-82-83) in her lone appearance of
the fall at the Warren Golf Course. Rogers is now
eighth in career stroke average on the program's
all-time list (82.66).
This fall, Rotella was on the course for the Irish for
the first time in more than a season after sitting out
all of the 2002-03 campaign with an arm injury. A
left-hander, Rotella tied Rogers at the Notre Dame
Invitational with a 54-hole score of 252 (84-81-85).
As the talent level of the Irish continues to improve,
so too does the schedule. In the spring, Notre Dame
will play in very competitive fields in such
tournaments as the Baylor/Tapito Springs Shootout.
Notre Dame also will once again host the BIG EAST
Women's Golf Championship in April as it attempts to
defend its conference title and secure that first-ever
berth in the NCAA tournament.