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Off to One of Best Starts Ever, Notre Dame Golf Eyes Regional Crown

The Notre Dame Academy golf team is putting together perhaps its best start ever heading into the second half of the season. 

Recently at the Fairfield Invitational Tournament, the Pandas set a school record for a team score with 300, edging out the previous record of 308.

The team has won the Grant County Tournament, the Fairfield Invitational, and the Mercedes Benz Cooper Classic. 

“That was a big win for us because we finally beat the five-time defending state champions, Sacred Heart. We also beat one of the best teams right now, Madison Central.  So that was a big victory for us,” golf coach Karen Henderson said.

Henderson credits two seniors and two juniors for the success the team has had this year. Seniors Amy Pugliano and Erin Durstock have provided veteran leadership for the Pandas this season and both committed just this week to playing golf for Northern Kentucky University next year.

“It’s really exciting. They’re both friends on top of it, and they’re going together and I think it’s a real good fit for both of them. I think they will do real well there. So we’re looking forward to that,” their coach said.

The Pugliano family has a long golf tradition in Northern Kentucky.  Amy’s mother was a Notre Dame golfer that won the state tournament and later went on to play at Ball State University.  Amy’s sister, also played for Notre Dame and played for Bellarmine College.

“I remember Amy walking around and watching her sister play. She was just in middle school and constantly being with the team and I think that she has learned over the years how to absorb all of that and make herself into a complete player.”

Lauren Bracken is a junior that has a lot of golfing experience, but is only in her first year on a high school team.

“She has played in a lot of national and state tournaments but did not play high school golf in the last two years. She has been a great addition to our team,” Henderson said.

Another strong player for the varsity team has been junior Abby Bricking. 

“I think they have all worked hard over the summer, so those four girls in particular have worked very hard. It’s not one person, it’s the team.  That’s been kind of nice.  When it’s about one person and everybody else just kind of fills in it’s tougher, and now we’re not even sure out of those four which one is going to be the low score of the day.”

Another factor toward Notre Dame’s success on the links this year has been their preparation playing longer courses, 18 holes at a time.

 “I can tell you that most of our events are 18-hole tournaments, they’re not matches.  During the season, we probably have three matches and I think that’s what makes us different than the other schools. Notre Dame invests the time and money to playing in 18-hole tournaments. If you look at the state tournament, you’re going to see teams that invest into that kind of a schedule.  Teams that just play a lot of 9-hole matches after school becomes hard to have the ability to play an 18-hole longer, distance tournament.  We try to spread them out so that it’s closer to what we play at state, but we play about 5800, 5900 yards at state so we try to get as many tournaments as we can to have that kind of length, because that’s what you’re going to need to have when you play at Bowling Green.”

The team plays every Saturday and also has lesson plans with drills they complete on their own time throughout the week.  Many of the girls that play belong to clubs that give them access to play, but Henderson said that if the Pandas do have a home course, it’s Twin Oaks Golf Course in Latonia.

While a state championship this season is not out of the question, the more immediate goal for Henderson and her squad is to win the Regional tournament which would stamp their ticket for a state tournament invite, and cracking the top five in the state.

“It’s always to make it to the second day of the state tournament because unfortunately a couple of years ago we did not make it to state and that’s a very bad feeling.  Last year, we ended up coming in 12th which is not where we wanted to be, but this week we’re going to really come with our goals now that we have our feet wet and we know what we can do. We definitely want to be in the top five.  This would be the perfect year if we can do it, but there is a lot of strong competition out there,” Henderson said. 

Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor

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