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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame earns ninth straight NCAA regional appearance, set to compete in Birmingham

Continuing a tradition of highly-regarded postseason performance, Notre Dame earned a No. 10 seed in the 18-team NCAA Birmingham regional in Birmingham, Alabama, which will take place May 5-7.

The four NCAA regional fields were announced live on the Golf Channel on Monday night. This is Notre Dame’s ninth straight NCAA regional appearance, and it is also the fifth time in program history — all under the leadership of head coach Susan Holt — the team has earned a top-10 seed. Holt said she was more than happy with the seeding.

“At this point in the season, you just want to be there,” Holt said. “I’m especially happy with the site that we’re going to [in Birmingham]. It’s a great golf course, great to be able to play at that exclusive of a club.”

The regional will be played at the Shoal Creek Club, which is a private, invitation-only course that does not often host collegiate play. Holt said she is particularly pleased by the fact that no one team has prior experience with the layout going into the regional.

“From that standpoint, there’s not going to be much of an advantage for anyone because no one’s seen the golf course, unlike the other site locations,” Holt said. “I really love the spot. It’s a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, and he’s got courses all over the country, so all our players have played his style. They all tend to have a lot of similar characteristics — really big greens, very sloped and graduating, big bunkers — that kind of thing. Those will be things we’ve seen before. The grass down there is bent, which is a great surface because it will be familiar to us.”

The team aims to recover from its 10th-place finish at the ACC championship just two weeks ago. The nine teams who finished ahead of them all qualified for one of the four regionals, and two of those teams — Florida State and Clemson — will face the Irish in the Birmingham field.

“We just didn’t play well [at the ACCs],” Holt said. “Our short gains were not good, we didn’t putt well, we didn’t chip well and trust me, we’re working on that right now. There are some tough shots we’ll be faced with, so getting our confidence back and working on technique in those situations is key.”

Holt’s team has scored seven wins in the past season over the opponents it will face again next weekend, most notably victories over No. 1 seed Alabama, No. 3 seed Oklahoma State, the No. 6-seeded Seminoles and No. 9 seed Purdue.

“This time of year, everyone goes back to zero,” Holt said. “Some teams are playing better than others right now, others were playing better at the beginning of the year than they are now. It’s all about playing hot, playing good golf for these three days. We know we can compete with Alabama and those top teams. It’s just going to take our best golf, and it’s going to be that way for any of these 16 teams.

“It’s not an insurmountable task. We’ve done it before; we just really need to do it now or else our season’s going to be over.”

Amidst this competitive field, the Irish look to advance to the national finals in Eugene, Oregon, as they did in 2011, which is their only other NCAA championship appearance. The top six teams from every regional will qualify for the championship, as will the top three scorers on non-qualifying teams. Holt said she believes her team has a great chance.

“I think we have more depth on this team than any team we’ve had in the 10 years I’ve been here,” Holt said. “They’re all capable, very good players. I know they’re excited for the opportunity. At this point, we have the opportunity to advance to nationals and that’s about all we could ask for. We’ve put ourselves in that position, and now we just have to go out there and finish it.”

Senior Talia Campbell and junior Jordan Ferreira were the top players at last year’s NCAA regional hosted at Notre Dame, tying for 19th place while the team finished in eighth overall, six strokes short of qualifying for the championship.

Notre Dame’s bid for a second national championship appearance begins at the three-day NCAA regional at Shoal Creek Club in Birmingham, Alabama, on May 5.