One of the nation’s top golf teachers, Jim Kubinski completed his 13th season as head coach of the University of Notre Dame men’s golf team in 2016-17. Having assumed the post on Jan. 28, 2005, Kubinski is just the sixth head coach in the 84-year history of the Irish men’s golf program. He inherited and subsequently added to a storied tradition that includes the 1944 NCAA Championship, 19 top-10 NCAA Championship finishes and 37 NCAA postseason appearances.
Kubinski won four BIG EAST Championships (2005, 2006, 2011 & 2012), added two BIG EAST runner-up finishes (2007 & 2010), and led the Irish through their first three seasons of play in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). He also mentored Notre Dame to a total of 18 tournament championships, and his players collectively earned seven PING all-Midwest Region honors and 24 all-conference accolades.
The Irish had strong performances at home in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, placing first and second in the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge, respectively, tying for first at the 2015 Fighting Irish Golf Classic and claiming first at the Battle at the Warren in 2016. The Irish also posted a runner-up finish in the Earl Yestingsmeier Match Play at the Lake Jovita Country Club in February 2016. The 2016-17 squad won four team titles: the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge, Georgetown Intercollegiate, Yestingsmeier Match Play and Battle at the Warren.
During the team’s first ACC season in 2013-14, Notre Dame posted a head-to-head record of 66-63-2 (.508) in 2013-14, logging a 295.06 stroke average over 33 team rounds. Highlighting the campaign was the first Irish team tournament victory since the 2012 BIG EAST Championship, as Notre Dame bested six other squads to win its very own Oak Hill Intercollegiate at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.
The 2013-14 season was also the final collegiate year in the career of Niall Platt. He became the first Notre Dame golfer, male or female, to be named to the all-ACC team during the program’s first year as a conference member, while also becoming just the fourth different player in program history to earn Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) Division I PING all-Midwest Region recognition. Platt also capped his Irish resume as the program scoring leader with a final 73.17 stroke average over 122 career rounds (44 events), and won his second individual tournament title after posting a one-under-par 209 on the famed Oak Hill Country Club layout to claim medalist honors at the 2014 Oak Hill Intercollegiate.
Kubinski guided Notre Dame to a 66-49-1 (.571) record in 2012-13, its final campaign in the BIG EAST Conference. As a team, the Irish posted the fourth-best scoring average in program history, carding a 293.95 clip over 24 total rounds.
Notre Dame earned a third-place finish in the program’s final appearance at the BIG EAST Championship on the Tom Watson Course at Reunion Resort in Orlando, Fla. Notre Dame carded the lowest score of the tournament during the event’s final round, turning in an eight-under par, 280. Irish players Platt and Cory Sciupider each earned all-BIG EAST honors on the strength of top-five finishes in the tournament’s individual draw.
Platt (Macdonald Cup) and Sciupider (C&F Bank Intercollegiate) also broke through for their first collegiate tournament victories during the regular season.
In 2012, Kubinski helped guide Max Scodro to both the PING and Golfweek Division I All-America honorable mention teams, marking the first Irish golfer to receive that distinction since 1980.
After leading his team to its fourth appearance in seven years at the 2011 NCAA Championship, Kubinski was selected as the BIG EAST Coach of Year for the first time in his head coaching tenure with the Irish. He repeated the honor in 2012, as the Irish pulled away for a 16-shot victory at the BIG EAST Championship (852, -12) to claim a spot in the NCAA Central Regional.
It didn’t take long for Kubinski to make his mark at Notre Dame. In his first tournament at the helm of the Irish, just one month after setting foot on campus, Kubinski guided Notre Dame to the championship of the 2005 NOKIA Sugar Bowl Tulane Invitational, winning the title on the first hole of a sudden death playoff against UNC-Wilmington. It was the first of two tournament crowns in the 2004-05 season for Notre Dame and made Kubinski the first Irish men’s golf coach since 1961 to win the opening event of his career. That season, Rev. Clarence Durbin, C.S.C., led the Irish to a 23.5-6.5 dual-match win over Western Michigan.
Kubinski piloted the Irish to consecutive BIG EAST Conference titles in 2005 and 2006, and back-to-back NCAA regional appearances both years, before accomplishing the same feat again in 2011 and 2012.
Under Kubinski’s guidance, Notre Dame registered 63 top-five finishes, including 18 tournament titles, two of which came in sudden-death playoffs. The Irish also carded the top-nine single-season stroke averages in school history under Kubinski, including a 289.52 in 2016-17, the best mark in program history. In addition, Notre Dame fired 18 of the top 20 single-round scores in school history, including impressive final-round postseason efforts at the 2012 NCAA Central Regional (278, -6) and the 2006 BIG EAST Championship (school-record 272, -16).
Individually, Kubinski has produced impressive results with several Irish players in a short span of time. Platt became just the fifth golfer in program history – joining Mark Baldwin (’06), Cole Isban (’07) and Doug Fortner (’10) – to receive all-BIG EAST accolades in three consecutive seasons when he was tabbed with the honor in 2013. Scodro earned all-conference distinction in each of his four seasons to set the program standard during its 18-year affiliation with the BIG EAST.
Isban became the first three-time PING All-Midwest Region selection (2005-07) in program history under Kubinski’s tutelage, and graduated in May 2007 as the school record holder for single-season stroke average (72.71 in 2006-07) and career stroke average (73.76)
Josh Sandman, a 2008 PING all-Midwest Region selection and two-time all-BIG EAST pick, took up where Isban left off. Working with Kubinski, Sandman posted a 73.90 career stroke average in 111 rounds for the second best mark in program history at the time of his graduating. He also broke new ground, becoming the first Notre Dame golfer ever chosen as an individual qualifier for NCAA regional play, earning a berth in the 2008 NCAA Central Regional. He came back from injuries to play an integral role with the Irish in 2009-10. Sandman won the 2009 Fighting Irish Gridiron Golf Classic for his first career win and graduated with four of the top-30 single season stroke averages in the Irish record books.
Fortner also experienced great success under Kubinski’s tutelage. As a senior, Fortner was one of four unanimous selections to the 2010 all-BIG EAST team, and fired a seven-under par 64 in the opening round of the 2010 FAU Spring Break Championship to tie Baldwin for the lowest to-par round in school history.
Since Kubinski’s first full year at the helm, 10 different Notre Dame golfers played in the Amateur Championship while 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2013 featured multiple Notre Dame golfers in the field. In August 2016, senior Blake Barens qualified for the match play rounds after carding a two-day total of 141 (+1) at Oakland Hills Country Club (Bloomfield Hills, Michigan).
Kubinski proved adept at restocking the Irish roster with talent upon the graduation of some of the best players in program history. 2012 graduates Scodro, Chris Walker and Tom Usher became the top players for the Irish in 2010-11 and 2011-12, playing as part of the rotation together for nearly all of the two seasons. Scodro highlighted the trio, earning medalist honors at the 2011 BIG EAST Championship (212, -1) and 2012 BIG EAST Championship (210, -6) as well as earning BIG EAST Player of the Year both years, the first time any Irish golfer received the honor.
Scodro etched his name in the annals of the Notre Dame program, posting the lowest single-season stroke average (71.25) during the 2011-12 campaign en route to moving into first at the time on the all-time career stroke average charts with his mark of 73.25. Additionally, Scodro tied for the most team-leading efforts in Notre Dame history with 19 while becoming the first All-American under Kubinski’s guidance and first for the program in 32 years. For his stellar season, Scodro also became the first Notre Dame golfer selected to the all-BIG EAST team all four years.
Kubinski was nominated for the 2007 GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teachers List, honoring the nation’s preeminent golf instructors. Previous winners of the prestigious designation include Hank Haney (former teacher for 10-time PGA Tour Player of the Year Tiger Woods), Butch Harmon (swing coach for PGA Tour great and two-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson) and David Leadbetter (legendary coach for such PGA Tour luminaries and major tournament champions as Ernie Els, Nick Faldo and Greg Norman).
Kubinski was a three-year golf letterman and two-year team captain at Springfield (Mass.) College before graduating in 1993. A two-time all-Northeast 10 Conference selection in 1991 and 1992, he also received the Springfield College Maroon Club Award for academic and athletic achievement in 1992. His playing experience continued on the North Atlantic Tour where he tied for sixth place at the `95 Boston Open, and he also competed in the Carolinas Section PGA.
Born in Springfield, Mass., Kubinski and his wife, Sarah, live in Granger, Ind. The couple has two children. Their daughter, Kelly, was born in September of 2007 and enjoys singing the Notre Dame Victory March. They celebrated the birth of their son, James, in May 2010.