March 14, 2017
By JP Bruno
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Each year, the University's spring break gives the Notre Dame women's golf team a unique opportunity to hit the road to work on their game as they ready for the stretch run of the season.
For the past five spring breaks, Notre Dame has journeyed to Mesa, Arizona, where it hosts the Clover Cup tournament at the Longbow Golf Club, and this year is no different. While the tournament does not start until March 17, the team will arrive early to get in a few important practice rounds, and also to do service in the Mesa community.
"We always make time to stop by the Cardon Children's Medical Center to visit with the pediatric cancer patients," says head coach Susan Holt. "We meet up with the kids in the activity center and spend time playing board games, coloring and painting. It's a great feeling to put a smile on the kids' faces and let them have some fun and hopefully forget about their illness for a little while."
As much as the trip is about golf, spending time with the children at the award-winning medical facility is a favorite break for the golfers.
"We always look forward to the time we get to spend at Cardon," says senior Jordan Ferreira. "It's important that we get to interact with the community that is so welcoming to us, and see the genuine impact we have by brightening the children's day."
And while the golfers work hard on the course, the children can keep them busy as well.
"One minute you can be at an air hockey table, and the next minute you could be coloring or playing a board game," says Ferreira.
In a way, Longbow and the city of Mesa have become a "home away from home" for the team, and the community is a part of that. Longbow Golf Club and the Visit Mesa Sports Commission have worked hand in hand to make sure Notre Dame is able to host the event every year. The partnership arose as the result of a connection with a Notre Dame alum, and has become an important part of the Notre Dame spring golf schedule. It is an early test the team faces coming out of winter training, giving them an opportunity to play golf outside every day. The golfers are familiar with the course, and the benefit of guaranteed good weather is an exciting factor for the team.
"We are always excited to head back to Arizona," says Ferreira. "Most of us have played this course before and know we can score. This tournament presents an opportunity for the work we've been putting in this spring to pay off, and for us to fine tune our games in preparation for the rest of the season."
Planning a large tournament is no easy feat, let alone a tournament across the country. The ties to Longbow and Visit Mesa are critical in ensuring the continued success of this event.
"The staff in Mesa have been great for my associate head coach, Kyle Lynne Demeter, to work with over the years," says Holt. "Having done this event now for six years we have a good handle on making sure it runs smoothly."
As the event has grown, it has become a popular competition for teams to participate in. This year is one of the best 15-team fields yet, with participation from No. 4 Florida State, No. 5 Arizona State, and No. 23 Oklahoma. Notre Dame looks to compete closely at this event as it has in the past, and hopefully win the first team victory at the event.
"I look for us to have another good showing as we work to get better each time out this spring," says Holt. "Our goals never change from year to year as we always strive to compete for an ACC Championship in April and advance to the NCAA tournament in May for the 10th consecutive year."
With these expectations in mind, the Irish head south for competition and service. And on their return?
"We're looking forward to the team's Habitat for Humanity build this spring, and continuing our work with Fighting Irish Fight for Life," says Ferreira.
Date: March 17-19, 2017
Format: 18 holes of play on each day (playing in threesomes)
Tee Times: 8:00 a.m. (MST)
Location: Mesa, Arizona
The Course: Longbow Golf Club (Par 72/6,184 yards)
Tournament Field: Notre Dame, Arizona State, Cincinnati, FIU, Florida State, Houston, Indiana, IUPUI, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, TCU, UNCG, Vanderbilt.
Live Scoring: Birdiefire.com
JP Bruno is a student assistant in the Notre Dame athletics communications office of Fighting Irish Media.