Notre Dame hosting NCAA golf regional May 5-7

Published 9:48 pm Thursday, April 28, 2011

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — No fewer than 17 of the nation’s top 50 collegiate women’s golf programs, including No. 25 Notre Dame, headline a high-powered 24-team field at the 2011 NCAA Central Regional, which will be played May 5-7 at the Warren Golf Course (par 72/6,208 yards) on the Notre Dame campus.

On Monday evening, the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Committee unveiled the fields for the three regional sites, along with the qualifying individuals for each site who were not on one of the selected squads. The top eight teams and top two individual competitors (not on an advancing team) from each regional will advance to the NCAA Championships May 18-21 at the Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas.

UCLA, the No. 2 team in the nation according to the latest Golfstat ratings, is the top seed in the Central Regional after earning an at-large bid out of the Pacific-10 Conference. The Bruins are one of 17 teams in the Central Regional field that appear in the top 50 of the current published Golfstat ratings, with the others (listed in order of their seed) as follows: No. 5 Duke, No. 8 LSU, No. 11 Arkansas, No. 16 Wake Forest, No. 20 Texas, No. 14 Tulane, No. 24 Stanford, No. 25 Notre Dame (making its sixth regional appearance and aiming to advance to the NCAA finals for the first time in school history), No. 30 Ohio State, No. 32 Kent State, No. 35 Chattanooga, No. 40 Northwestern, No. 39 Minnesota, No. 43 UNLV, No. 48 Oklahoma State and No. 45 North Texas. Of these 17 top-50 squads, four earned automatic bids from their respective conferences (Texas ± Big 12; Notre Dame — BIG EAST; Kent State – MAC; Chattanooga — Southern), while the other 13 teams collected at-large bids to the regional.

Rounding out this year’s Central Regional field (and listed in seeding order) are: Wisconsin, East Carolina, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio Valley Conference champion Morehead State, Missouri Valley Conference champion Illinois State and Horizon League champion Butler. North Texas, Morehead State and Butler have advanced to regional play for the first time in their respective histories (MSU’s program is in just its third year of existence), while three Big Ten participants will be competing for the first time in at least eight years (Illinois and Wisconsin last played in 2003, while Minnesota most recently tasted regional competition in 2001).

Among the notable individuals scheduled to join their teams at the 2011 NCAA Central Regional are LSU’s Megan McChrystal (ranked fifth in the nation by Golfweek and seventh in the Golfstat Cup), and Wake Forest’s Cheyenne Woods (the ACC medalist and niece of 14-time PGA Tour major champion Tiger Woods). They will be joined by six individual qualifiers — Harin Lee (St. John’s), Lindsay Gahm (Indiana), Bonnie Hu (Harvard), Nina Muehl (East Tennessee State), Brittany Kelly (Ball State) and Britney Hamilton (Western Michigan).

The NCAA regionals are contested in a three-day, 54-hole format, with 18 holes played each day. Teams will compete in a practice round beginning at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, before taking part in three rounds of competition Thursday through Saturday, with the first tee times set for 8 a.m. each day from the No. 1 and No. 10 tees. Admission to the Warren Golf Course for the NCAA Central Regional is free.

The Warren Golf Course opened on May 1, 2000 and was designed by the Austin, Texas-based firm of Coore and Crenshaw, headed by Bill Coore and PGA Tour veteran (and two-time Masters champion) Ben Crenshaw. This will mark the third time the course has played host to NCAA regional play, and the first time it has been the site of a women’s regional (the NCAA Men’s Golf Central Regional was played at Notre Dame in 2005 and 2010). During its relatively brief 11-year existence, the Warren Golf Course already has played host to the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, two U.S. Amateur qualifiers, two Western Amateur qualifiers and five BIG EAST Conference Championships.

Noted for its turn-of-the-century, old-world charm that recalls the classic early Irish and American courses, the Warren Golf Course is built upon subtleties, including small undulating greens and numerous strategically-placed bunkers (all of which were recently enhanced). Since its opening, the Warren Golf Course has been named of the best new courses in America by Golf Digest, has been tabbed a must-play venue by both Links Magazine and Golf Digest, and was named the No. 2 layout in the state of Indiana according to the 2008 Golfweek state-by-state ranking of the nation’s best public access courses.