March 6, 2004
by Adam Porcelli
The Notre Dame women's golf team has had a remarkable 2003-04 season, and it is only half over. Head coach Debby King's squad tied a single-season school best by winning three of their six fall tournaments while setting numerous other team and individual records. Two members of the Irish who made significant contributions to the highly-successful fall campaign were a pair of freshmen, Noriko Nakazaki (Hanover Park, Ill.) and Stacy Brown (The Woodlands, Texas).
The only freshmen on the '03-'04 roster, Nakazaki and Brown wasted little time in making an impression on the Notre Dame program. Nakazaki led the team in scoring with a Notre Dame-record 74.89, which includes the program-low 69 she fired in her first collegiate round at the season-opening Cougar Classic. Brown finished the fall slate fourth on the team in stroke average (77.80) after leading Notre Dame in the final event of the fall, earning her first top-10 finish (T-6th) for the Irish with a 224 (73-73-78) at the Edwin Watts/Palmetto Intercollegiate.
When it comes to explaining both their personal achievements and the team's remarkable accomplishments, both of Notre Dame's newcomers arrive at the same conclusion.
"I think it starts with the team leaders," says Nakazaki.
"Our success really stemmed from our coaches and the seniors. It made it easier for me to get through my first semester by having players like Shannon (Byrne) leading the team. I also think our facilities played a part in getting us ready for the season."
"It was really great coming in and having the type of fall season that we did," says Brown.
"I think it had a lot to do with our coach (Debby King) really getting us on the same page right away and then just the team working together. Even though golf is an individual sport, we always step out there with the team's goals in mind."
Despite the early success this year, Nakazaki and Brown are not satisfied, believing they can still improve on their play. The Irish's youngest members also know that the entire team plans on performing even better in the spring than they did during their outstanding fall.
"Overall, I am very happy with the way the fall went," says Nakazaki.
"I still expect both myself and the team to do even better this spring, though. I think I can shoot lower scores because I am a little more used to the balancing of all the workouts and practices with classes. I feel very confident in all my teammates and that we will play even better this semester."
Nakazaki's classmate agrees with her and is well aware of the high expectations for the spring season. Brown also has high individual goals for Notre Dame's six spring tournaments.
"We exceeded all expectations in the fall, so our goals for the spring are higher than they were heading into the fall," says Brown.
"We want to average around 305, but ideally, we feel we can regularly shoot 300 and in the 290's. We're going into the spring with our motivation and determination up to repeat what we did in the fall. Personally, I want to do what it takes to help my team as much as possible. I was pleased with the way I played in the fall, but I think I can get my scoring down in the spring."
Nakazaki and Brown are well aware of the potential rewards for continued success by Notre Dame over the next two months. Nakazaki understands the squad's chief ambition, but also wants to continue enjoying the pursuit of that goal with her teammates.
"It's definitely everyone's ultimate goal to get to the NCAAs," says Nakazaki.
"We can do it because as a team, we help each other out and push each other to do well; I think that will allow us to reach goals faster. I love being around my teammates because they're so fun to be with, and I think that also helps us all play better. I am just enjoying being a part of this team and trying to accomplish these goals with them."
Brown echoes Nakazaki's sentiments concerning team chemistry and also is aware of the need to take things slowly in pursuit of this season's top goal and the future goals of the Irish women's golf program.
"I think our success has a lot to do with how hard we work together as a team," says Brown.
"The most important thing is to keep our minds focused, play hard and keep taking it one step at a time. If we can take things one round and one tournament at a time, we will find ourselves in a position to have a chance go to the NCAAs. I think in the years to come, we are just going to get stronger and stronger. Hopefully, by the time I graduate, we will be one of the best team's in the nation."